Durbin And Davis Introduce Legislation To Increase Broadband Service

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL-7) visited the Illinois Medical District Office to discuss their new legislation to improve access to broadband service and address internet access disparities, which impact education, health care, and livelihoods.

“Our lives have shifted drastically amid the global coronavirus pandemic.  It is clear just how essential the role of internet access has become in our country. Access to the internet allows patients to receive telehealth services, students to complete their coursework, and people to remain in contact with their loved ones during this era of social distancing,” Durbin said. “Now, more than ever, Congress must act to address the digital divide.  Seniors, students, rural, and low-income Americans deserve access to quality, affordable broadband services. I am proud to work with Congressman Davis to connect families and students to the internet by reducing the affordability burden of broadband and computer technology.”

“Equalizing opportunities for computers and access to the internet and broadband are essential needs for low and moderate-income people if they are to live successful lives, without access it means nothing to them,” Davis said.

A 2020 Pew study found that 15 percent of school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home; this increases to 35 percent for children in households with an annual income below $30,000 per year. At least one third of the children living in West Englewood, Englewood, North Lawndale, and Austin lack broadband access.

Seniors are more likely to visit their doctors for routine or specialized treatment, with each physical trip posing the risk of them contracting the COVID-19 virus.  In addition to facing the issue of access to technology, seniors also face a learning curve of how to effectively use the technology and navigate the internet, inhibiting them from connecting to telehealth resources and loved ones. 

The Computer and Internet Access Equity Act would:

  • Expand the FCC’s Lifeline program that subsidizes monthly broadband and telephone service for low-income households
  • Establish a Technology Tax Credit that would provide a refundable $10,000 lifetime tax credit (capped at $2,000 per year) to purchase technology. 
  • Direct the FCC to provide grants to non-profits and community-based organizations to provide training

The CARES Act provided $200 million for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program that assists nonprofits and public eligible health care providers in bringing connected care services to patients at home or in mobile locations.  This program is administered through the FCC via an application process for qualifying entities.  To date, three entities in Illinois have received funding through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

Last year, Durbin introduced the Promoting Access to Broadband Act, which would provide grants to states to increase awareness of, and enrollment in, the Lifeline program. Durbin is also a cosponsor of the Emergency Educational Connections Act, which would provide $4 billion for the FCC’s E-Rate program for schools and libraries to support Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices.