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Emergency Fund Supports Sustained Connectivity in Rural U.S.
Indiana Ag Connection - 03/27/2020

NTCA--The Rural Broadband Association issued a endorsing the "Keeping Critical Connections Act" introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). This bill would help ensure that smaller broadband operators can sustain essential connections for customers if those customers become unable to pay their broadband bills due to a loss or reduction in income related to the COVID-19 crisis, and it would also empower such smaller operators to offer free or discounted service or broadband upgrades to households with students in need of distance learning capability.

"NTCA greatly appreciates the leadership of Sens. Klobuchar, Cramer, and their colleagues to keep Americans connected in this time of crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus and applauds their efforts to help keep students and workers connected to the internet," said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield.

Small, community-based broadband providers such as those in NTCA's membership are highly motivated to keep all of their friends and neighbors connected, especially during this unprecedented emergency. Now more than ever, the ability to telework, study from home, and access critical medical services via telemedicine is essential. At the same time, this pandemic is already causing significant economic disruption across the globe, and it presents the risk of causing economic distress for many hard-working American families.

"This bill will help smaller broadband providers -- who themselves will face struggles in these challenging times -- keep more Americans online in the face of such economic distress, sustaining connections that are becoming more critical by the day," Bloomfield said. "NTCA members embody the community-oriented spirit needed in a time like this, and we support this bill as it provides the tools necessary to assist households with students and those experiencing economic distress due to the pandemic. NTCA is of course eager to participate in broader conversations as well about how to build the kind of robust, future-proof broadband infrastructure needed to ensure no American is unable to work or learn from home in the future. But this legislation is perhaps one of the most important steps that can be taken here and now to keep Americans connected at a time when those existing connections are needed most and perhaps most at risk."

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