WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. joined Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to reintroduce the Keeping Critical Connections Act, a bipartisan bill to help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity remains available for students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Marshall helped lead this legislation during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives last Congress as well.
“Now more than ever we’re seeing how important it is to have access to a fast and reliable broadband connection,” said Senator Marshall. “As some students and workers are continuing to work from home, our rural telecommunications providers have been working around the clock to ensure students, communities, and businesses have reliable internet access, no matter where they live. This bill will provide assistance to small companies trying to address the unique rural telecommunications needs posed by COVID-19, and ensure all Americans can remain connected during this difficult time.”
“As COVID-19 began to sweep through the country and take its toll on the economy, several small broadband providers went out of their way to keep their services available to struggling families who couldn’t otherwise afford them,” said Senator Cramer. “That was the right thing to do, and now it’s our turn to make sure those same companies are not financially damaged simply because they chose to help the American people in a time of need and uncertainty.”
“Access to high speed internet is more critical now than ever for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond,” said Senator Klobuchar. “The Keeping Critical Connections Act will help small broadband providers continue providing free or discounted broadband services to ensure that students and families remain connected to school, work, and their communities.”
This legislation would appropriate $2 billion for a Keeping Critical Connections Emergency Fund at the Federal Communications Commission under which small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers could be compensated for broadband services under certain conditions. It is endorsed by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.
The 27 senators cosponsoring the bill include Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), John Barrasso (R-WY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Boozman (R-AR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).