Cantwell Urges FCC Chairman to Act Amid Coronavirus Crisis

March 5, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter to Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the agency to put existing authority and programs to use to directly aid in the coronavirus response. The FCC has adopted temporary rules in the wake of past emergencies, including Hurricane Katrina, to provide health care aid to rural areas through telemedicine and advanced telecommunications services.

“I believe that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is uniquely positioned to respond to some of the challenges posed by COVID-19 just as it has in the past with disaster response,” Ranking Member Cantwell wrote. “I urge you to consider how the FCC’s existing authority and programs, as well as temporary policies or rule waivers, may be used to secure the nation’s safety and continued well-being.”

Ranking Member Cantwell wrote, “To facilitate remote monitoring of isolated and quarantined patients (especially low-income patients), I urge you to consider what temporary measures the FCC can take to pave the way for connected care between these patients and health care professionals.  To this end, the FCC has a pilot proposal outstanding that is designed to help address the cost of connected care for low-income consumers.  I urge you to consider how this effort or other temporary policies can be part of a nationwide response to COVID-19.” 

In Washington state, some schools and school districts have temporarily closed after information that they may have been affected by direct or indirect exposure to the coronavirus. In her letter, Ranking Member Cantwell wrote, I request that the FCC consider whether temporary measures using its authority under section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934 could be used to facilitate at-home connectivity for students to keep up in class should remote schoolwork become necessary due to COVID-19 closures.” 

Ranking Member Cantwell’s letter can be found HERE.