Schatz Calls on Federal Agencies to Share Data in Effort to Expand Access to Internet
US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) led a group of 20 senators in calling on the leaders of the US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Communications Commission to share data to identify communities without high-speed internet access and work together to improve broadband connectivity.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more apparent that affordable and reliable broadband is critical to accessing education, health care, and other essential services. Yet millions of households remain unconnected either because broadband infrastructure has not been built to their homes or the price of broadband services is out of reach for them. We need a collaborative, cross-government approach to addressing this gap. Accordingly, we write to request that your agencies share data on existing Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs with the Federal Communications Commission to improve broadband connectivity, and that you collaborate with each other to better promote the Lifeline universal service program,” the senators wrote in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, and FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
In a letter to the agency leaders, the senators also called on them to collaborate and find ways to ensure families in need also have information on accessing Lifeline, an existing federal phone and internet service program.
“We urge HUD and USDA to use their resources to help promote the Lifeline program through existing outreach to public housing agencies and schools. HUD, USDA and the FCC should also collaborate on what additional information they could share with each other to make enrollment in the Lifeline program easier,” the senators continued.
In addition to Schatz, the letter was signed by US Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).