On July 1, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. This Bill could be a crucial step towards unlocking the power of connectivity for all people across the country. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, the funding and provisions outlined in H.R. 2 will not only provide local and state leaders the guidance they need to close the digital divide, but provide them with much-needed resources. It also encourages the federal government, state officials, and local leaders to work together.
The bill places resources directly into the hands of local leaders and their community partners with over $80 Billion designated for projects that target unserved populations. Additionally, communities with outdated and insufficient infrastructure would also be eligible for support.
- $60 Billion is allocated for investment in communities with fixed internet service under 25/3 Mbps.
- $20 Billion is allocated for underserved communities with broadband between 25/3 and 100/100 Mbps.
- A multi-billion dollar fund to support community anchor institutions. These institutions, which include libraries, schools, and community centers, are already experts in serving their communities and are instrumental in closing the digital divide.
- Preempts existing state legislation to legalize the use of innovative connectivity solutions including municipal networks and open-access networks, among others. This is a long overdue step to support municipal governments in their work to close the digital divide.
- Requires internet service providers to report speeds and prices so customers and local leaders can make informed decisions about connectivity.
- Provides households with a $50/month subsidy to support broadband internet subscriptions.
The policies outlined above take major steps in closing America’s digital divide and will ensure that our country unlocks its digital potential. The combination of funding, resources, and reduced barriers will allow community leaders to tackle their connectivity goals in many more ways. COVID-19 has revealed that millions of Americans will need support to learn, work, and live. Policies that support competition and transparency will always do the most good for American communities by ensuring specific needs are met in the most efficient way possible.
Next Century Cities and our 200+ member communities recognize that there is no single solution to closing the divide. Every stakeholder will have to claim a share of the solution which will require varying degrees of government support. Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to highlight the flaws and gaps in our nation’s internet network, our work to ensure that every person has access to affordable and reliable broadband continues.