BRIDGE Act Would Provide Funding to States and Tribal Governments to Deploy Affordable, High-Speed Broadband
Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) announced growing support for the Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy (BRIDGE) Act of 2020 to deploy affordable, “future-proof” broadband networks nationwide. U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support of the legislation, alongside dozens of national and state-level elected officials and organizations.
“As the pandemic keeps millions of families at home, it has never been more urgent to extend the benefits of affordable, high-speed broadband to every American,” said Bennet. “For years, the digital divide has prevented up to 42 million Americans—disproportionately from rural areas, low-income neighborhoods, and communities of color—from being able to fully participate in modern American life. Over this period, billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted deploying slow, outdated broadband networks that fail to meet the needs of communities in Colorado and across the country. Broadband experts endorse the BRIDGE Act because it will invest in a 21st century broadband infrastructure that can meet America’s needs not only today, but for years to come.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought into focus a 21st century reality: access to high-speed, affordable broadband is critical infrastructure that helps Americans across the nation operate their businesses, pursue their education, access telehealth, and interact with their communities,” said King. “Unfortunately, too many rural communities don’t have access to this vital tool, leaving them at risk of being left behind. As Congress continues to discuss opportunities to address the ongoing economic crisis, this legislation can help put folks back to work and bridge the digital divide so Americans of all backgrounds can reach their full potential.”
In an op-ed published today, Bennet emphasized how the pandemic has pushed Americans to rely on high-speed broadband more than ever to work, learn, and connect remotely. However, up to 42 million Americans still lack access to broadband. Bennet and King’s BRIDGE Act helps close this gap by providing $30 billion to States and $1 billion to Tribal Governments to deploy broadband in unserved and underserved communities nationwide and ensuring newly built networks meet minimum requirements for speed, service, and affordability. The legislation empowers communities to deploy their own broadband networks if they wish and makes them eligible for financial support. Finally, the legislation accelerates an overhaul of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband maps, which consistently overstate broadband access in America—especially in rural areas.
Support for the BRIDGE Act
National Endorsements: American Library Association; American Psychological Association; Consumer Reports; Fiber Broadband Association; Institute for Local Self-Reliance; National Association of Realtors; National Farmers Union; National Rural Health Association; Primary Care Collaborative; Public Knowledge; and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition.
Colorado Endorsements: Governor Jared Polis; Attorney General Phil Weiser; Colorado Association of Realtors; Colorado Association of School Boards; Colorado Communications and Utility Alliance; Colorado Counties, Inc.; Colorado Farm Bureau; Colorado Forum; Colorado Rural Schools Alliance; Delta-Montrose Electric Association; Northwest Colorado Council of Governments; Rocky Mountain Farmers Union; and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.
Statements of Support:
“It is nearly impossible to participate in our modern society and the modern economy without high-speed broadband. The Fiber Broadband Association and its members support the BRIDGE Act and celebrate this effort to bridge the digital divide with high-quality, future-proof broadband. This bill raises the minimum speeds for new broadband networks and supports municipal broadband — two key elements to foster the rapid deployment of fiber. We thank Senator Bennet for his leadership and remain committed to working with Congress to connect all Americans, regardless of where they live, with high-speed fiber broadband.” – Lisa R. Youngers, President and CEO, Fiber Broadband Association
“Broadband access isn’t a luxury – it’s essential for living in the modern world. The BRIDGE Act narrows the digital divide by ensuring that taxpayer dollars go to building fast, future-proof networks while also enabling consumers to choose from multiple broadband providers, potentially decreasing prices. The bill also helps Americans afford access by requiring new broadband providers to offer low-cost options for low-income families. We thank Sen. Bennet for championing those on the wrong side of the digital divide by steadfastly working to close it.” – Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge
“This bill is an essential step forward that will more efficiently use broadband subsidies to make sure families both get high-quality Internet access and will not need subsidies for future broadband upgrades. Removing state barriers to community networks will further unlock investment in the networks our local businesses and residents need.” – Christopher Mitchell, Director, Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
“Consumer Reports is proud to support the BRIDGE Act. This bill represents a direct, meaningful, and effective way to expand access to affordable, high-speed internet service. As millions of Americans have shifted to working, learning, and receiving medical care at home because of the pandemic, the value of a reliable, affordable internet connection has never been clearer. Providing funds directly to States and Tribal Governments is a necessary down payment to build modern infrastructure that’s needed to supply high-speed broadband to more communities for years to come. CR is particularly pleased with the legislation's requirement that internet service providers offer at least one low-cost option for families who cannot afford broadband and its current prices. Finally, the BRIDGE Act breaks down barriers to competition, a simple solution which has been shown to lower prices for internet service." – Jonathan Schwantes, Senior Policy Counsel, Consumer Reports
“As with other basic utilities, the success of family farm agriculture depends on reliable and affordable internet connectivity. Farmers use broadband to reach customers, order seeds and tools, discover information about markets and the weather, and use precision technologies that maximize yields and minimize input use. As the pandemic has limited face-to-face interactions, the role of the internet has only become more pronounced in rural communities, with schooling, medical care, commerce, and communication all shifting online. Unfortunately, too many rural Americans still don’t have access to this critical resource. By bringing affordable, high-speed broadband to unserved communities, the BRIDGE Act will narrow the digital divide and help farmers and their communities reach their full potential.” – Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union
"Senator Bennet's BRIDGE Act addresses the nation's urgent need for affordable, high-quality broadband throughout unserved and underserved markets. The bill's call for providing gigabit broadband for anchor institutions is particularly noteworthy, as the role of schools, libraries, telehealth providers and other community support organizations is vital to the strength of local economies during this economic downturn. The SHLB Coalition is pleased to lend its support to this very important bill." - John Windhausen, Executive Director, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition
“Senator Bennet’s BRIDGE Act reinvents the federal-state broadband funding partnership by providing $30 billion to states and $1 billion to Indian tribes, allowing states and tribes to efficiently and effectively address the persistent digital divide, which disproportionately affects communities of color, lower-income areas, and rural areas. New funding is imperative to deploy this essential utility in support of economic development and the provision of essential public services, including health care and education.” – Colorado Governor Jared Polis
“Access to affordable broadband internet is necessary to ensure equitable participation in economic, civic, and social life. Currently, we need universal broadband connectivity so all Coloradans can participate in remote learning, telework, and telemedicine. I applaud Senator Bennet’s leadership in the United States Senate to improve broadband accessibility. As Colorado Attorney General, I look forward to advancing the work to ensure access to affordable broadband internet connections for all Coloradans.” – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser
“The members of the Colorado Forum have recognized the importance of ensuring access to high speed broadband for every Coloradan. We view broadband as a critical requirement in today’s marketplace to allow all of our citizens access to quality health care, an excellent education, effective public safety, and robust economic development. Senator Bennet’s BRIDGE Act provides all of the necessary elements to move broadband into every unserved and underserved community. It is a critical step that we must take to improve lives across Colorado and across this country.” – Gail Klapper, President, Colorado Forum
“The availability of broadband service is absolutely critical to the survival of our rural communities. It provides an equal footing for business and economic development efforts and provides residents with access to online education/distance learning opportunities, telemedicine and online government services. It has become so critical to our rural communities that many now consider it a basic infrastructure need – on par with roads, water systems and power grids. We thank Senator Bennet for bringing forward legislation that will help connect rural Colorado.” – John Swartout, Executive Director, Colorado Counties, Inc.
“Equity comes in many forms and for far too long the digital divide in the United States has prevented millions from realizing the opportunities that access to robust broadband provides. The Colorado Communications and Utility Alliance has been working for years to address digital equity issues and commends Senator Bennet for sponsoring this innovative legislation for unserved and underserved communities in our country.” – Alan DeLollis, President, Colorado Communications and Utility Alliance
“The modern farm is full of technology that relies on high-speed, reliable broadband to compete - from computerized seed planting to water monitoring to access to global markets. Given agriculture’s major contribution to Colorado’s economy, we must provide farmers and ranchers the 21st century broadband they need to grow and compete in a global market. More broadly, without affordable, high-speed broadband, our rural communities and production agriculture will fall behind. High speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity as more rural citizens are working and learning from home. RMFU is proud to support the BRIDGE Act, and we thank Senator Bennet for his leadership in addressing this important issue.” – Dr. Dale McCall, President, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
“COVID-19 has spotlighted the critical importance of broadband service. From online learning to telemedicine and working from home, a well-performing network is essential. Senator Bennet’s BRIDGE Act represents unprecedented improvements to federal broadband funding to ensure that this essential service is available to more Americans. It ensures that funding recipients deliver broadband service that truly meets the needs of modern life, and it helps provide solutions for households suffering from poor performing networks." – Kent Blackwell, Chief Technical Officer, Delta Montrose Electric Association
“The BRIDGE Act recognizes and helps solve the challenge of if you do not have adequate internet, you are not able to fully engage in society, further creating an opportunity gap between those who are connected and those who are not. This opportunity gap includes education, job searches, eCommerce, and staying connected with employers, family, and friends. It is time every American has an equal opportunity to fully participate in our connected society." – Andrew Moore, Chief Technology Officer, Boulder Valley School District
"This legislation is vital to our economic recovery. America's most valuable resource is our people, and our biggest contribution to the world is our ideas. In the midst of this emergency, broadband has helped some Americans work remotely, pursue education, and access healthcare. Many Americans remain cut off from these pursuits because of lack of broadband. It's absolutely vital that we harness the efforts, potential, and creativity of all Americans in this recovery by extending world class broadband to everyone now. Senator King’s unwavering support for improving rural broadband shows his commitment to ensuring all Americans participate in and benefit from the recovery." – Joshua Broder, CEO, Tilson, and Co-Chair, Maine’s Economic Recovery Committee
“Bringing broadband to rural Maine is a challenge that will require local flexibility to maximize the value of this investment. As a former Governor, Senator King recognizes the important role States are playing in solving the high needs of communities. The Bridge Act moves Maine’s action plan forward by supporting Maine’s strategy of 1/3 federal, 1/3 state, 1/3 private funding to ensure that all Mainer’s have access to affordable high speed internet. The Bridge Act also recognizes that State programs are tailored to fit State challenges and avoid some of the issues that make many federal programs for broadband a tough fit for Maine. If passed, this bill would be a huge step forward for Maine and ConnectMaine wants to thank Senator King for his continued leadership and commitment on this important issue.” – Peggy Schaffer, Executive Director, ConnectMaine
The BRIDGE Act would:
- Provide $30 billion to States and $1 billion to Tribal Governments to connect unserved communities, hospitals, schools, libraries, and other local anchor institutions to high-speed broadband that can meet their long-term needs.
- Emphasize affordability by requiring new broadband networks to provide at least one low-cost option for low-income families.
- Encourage gigabit-level internet wherever possible while raising the minimum speeds for new broadband networks to at least 100/100 Mbps, much higher than the current definition of 25/3 Mbps set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the 10/1 Mbps definition set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Increase choice and competition by lifting bans against municipal broadband networks and allowing more entities to compete for funding.
- Improve broadband data by funding the FCC’s data overhaul while setting a one-year deadline for its completion.
- Strengthen transparency and accountability with requirements to publicize eligible funding areas, conduct an evidence-based challenge process, and require applicants to return awarded funds if they fail to meet project requirements.