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Unions Call On Congress To Include ‘Universal Access’ To Broadband In Pandemic Response

Published Monday, May 18, 2020
by Joe Levine/
Unions Call On Congress To Include ‘Universal Access’ To Broadband In Pandemic Response

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Leaders of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the  Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are calling for universal access to broadband in future legislation that addresses the Coronavirus Pandemic.

In a recent letter, CWA President Chris Shelton, AFT President Randi Weingarten and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry noted that the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has forced hundreds of millions of people in the United States to work, learn, and access health care and public services from home.

The crisis has exacerbated the consequences of the existing digital divide, they wrote, adding that in some small towns and rural communities, reliable, high-speed internet connections are not available at any price.

The Labor Leaders, whose Union represent a collective 4.4 million Members, recommended three things that Congress can do to meet the national need for affordable, high-speed broadband connections: Fund Broadband Infrastructure expansion in underserved areas with strong Labor Protections for those building and servicing that infrastructure included; Appropriate $4 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund, which would be administered through the FCC’s E-Rate program; and Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create an Emergency Lifeline Broadband Benefit for low-income households of $50 per month to cover the cost of an adequate broadband service.

“It is clearer than ever that affordable broadband is essential.  Yet, tens of millions of Americans don’t have broadband Internet at home,” the letter reads. “Everyone in the country has been affected by this global public health crisis, but People of Color, low-income families and rural communities are particularly affected, leaving our Nation’s most vulnerable communities struggling to stay connected with school, work, health care, entertainment and their loved ones during this public health crisis.”

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