On May 7, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a new bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to examine the effects of COVID-19 on how people learn, work from home, and receive medical treatment. Named the “‘National Broadband Plan for the Future Act of 2020,” the bill is part of an effort to analyze Americans’ level of reliance on services enabled by broadband.
Ten years ago, the FCC planned to expand broadband internet access in the United States. The new bill would force the FCC to “reassess the areas of focus contained within the original 10-year period…” Markey also seeks methods for maximizing the utilization of broadband service and increasing its affordability and accessibility, especially for students. The bill requests “an analysis of the nature and extent of gaps between students who have access to broadband internet access service at home and students who do not have that access.”
According to The Verge, due to the social distancing restrictions that now force employees and students to work from home, other Democrats have requested increased broadband accessibility. In a recent editorial published by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wrote “one lesson from the pandemic is the glaring shortfall of our telecommunication infrastructure.”
Markey is one of several politicians concerned with internet access. House Democrats unveiled a plan on April 30 to invest $80 billion in expanding access to broadband internet. Their proposal was similar to others designed to benefit U.S. infrastructure, according to CNBC.