Leaders of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are urging Congress to include affordable, universal access to broadband in future legislation that addresses the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter released today, CWA President Chris Shelton, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry note that the COVID-19 public health emergency has forced hundreds of millions of people in the United States to work, learn, and access healthcare and public services from home. The crisis has exacerbated the consequences of the existing digital divide. In some small towns and rural communities, reliable, high-speed internet connections are not available at any price.
The union leaders, who represent a collective 4.4 million members, recommend three things that Congress can do to meet the national need for affordable, high-speed broadband connections:
- Fund broadband infrastructure expansion in un- and underserved areas with strong labor protections for those building and servicing that infrastructure included;
- Appropriate $4 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund, administered through the FCC's E-Rate program; and
- Direct the 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, healthcare, entertainment, and their loved ones during this public health crisis."
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working men and women in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.