Affordable Broadband

January 25, 2023

“Broadband is a necessity. Without it, kids didn’t have high-speed internet to do their homework and entrepreneurs were unable to start online businesses or even develop a basic web presence. Everyone should have universal access to high-speed internet, no matter where they live.” –Sen. Cantwell

High-speed internet has become essential for Americans to do their jobs, for kids to do their homework, for telehealth patients to see their doctors and for families to stay connected. Yet roughly 1 in 5 American households lack access to reliable, affordable internet service. What’s worse, 30 million Americans live in rural communities where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides even basic internet speeds.   

Sen. Cantwell has long fought for more reliable  and affordable broadband for communities across the country. As Chair of the Committee tasked with overseeing the historic $65 billion investment in broadband under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Sen. Cantwell is working to ensure funding goes to communities that need it most. 

Through a broad array of broadband initiatives, our Committee Democrats believe we can expand economic opportunity and access to education, healthcare, telehealth and e-commerce, regardless of where people live.

Sen. Luján, Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, chaired a hearing in December 2022, highlighting Congress’ ongoing efforts to best deliver Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding and resources to make affordable, resilient and secure broadband accessible to every American household. 

Sen. Luján chairs a subcommittee hearing on federal broadband programs

  • Connecting Rural America: Sen. Tester, along with Sen. Rosen, Sen. Hickenlooper and Sen. Warnock, worked across the aisle to champion a $42.5 billion investment - the single largest broadband investment in U.S. history - to connect rural America through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

  • Closing the Digital Divide: Sen. Warnock ensured that funding secured through the $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act could be used for devices to ensure everyone has access to the education, jobs and opportunities available online, no matter where they live or their socioeconomic background.

  • Connecting Tribes: Sen. Rosen, Sen. Hickenlooper, Sen. Tester and Sen. Warnock secured $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program to help Tribal governments with broadband deployment, telehealth, distance learning, affordability and digital inclusion. 

  • Building Resilient and Redundant Networks: Sen. Rosen secured $1 billion in grants through the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program to link homes and businesses to the internet and reduce the cost of high-speed internet to unserved and underserved communities. 

  • Creating Affordable Options: Sen. Blumenthal secured $14.2 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides low-income households up to $30 per month toward internet service and up to $75 a month for households on Tribal lands. 

With a $65 billion investment, states are getting to work
to connect families in rural and underserved communities, expand affordable options for low-income families and build new broadband infrastructure.

IN ACTION: In October 2022, Sen. Cantwell announced $64.3 million in Tribal Broadband Connectivity grants to install fiber for the Lummi Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville reservation. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will be able to connect 2,867 unserved Native American households with high-speed internet. The Lummi Nation will be able to connect 2,273 unserved Native American households, 193 Tribal businesses and 23 anchor institutions, such as schools and police stations.

Sen. Cantwell visits the Lummi Nation to announce the broadband extension project

IN ACTION: In August 2022, Sen. Luján announced $147 million in Tribal Broadband Connectivity grants to expand broadband access for the Pueblo of Isleta, Santa Fe Indian School, Jicarilla Apache Nation Power Authority, the Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo and Mescalero Apache Telecom, Inc.

Sen. Luján announces federal funding for Tribes and Pueblos in New Mexico

IN ACTION: In November 2022, Sen. Rosen announced $800,000 in Tribal Broadband Connectivity funding to the Ely Shoshone Tribe to support broadband infrastructure that is expected to directly connect the tribal library, health care clinic and 118 unserved Tribal households with high-speed internet.

Sen. Rosen talks broadband with the Ely Shoshone Tribe

IN ACTION: In August 2022, Sen. Tester announced $15 million in Tribal Broadband Connectivity funding to the Chippewa Cree Tribe to install broadband infrastructure and bring high-speed internet to 770 households on the Rocky Boy Reservation.

Sen. Tester with leaders from the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy

Ensuring Access to Reasonable Prison Pay Phone Rates:

“No family member should ever have to choose between staying in touch with an incarcerated loved one and paying the bills...We must do all that we can to ensure that phone rates in correctional facilities are just and reasonable so family members can afford to stay in touch with incarcerated loved ones, improving the chances that rehabilitated offenders will be able to become productive members of society upon their release.” –Sen. Duckworth

Incarcerated individuals in the United States often face much higher rates for telephone and video calls than the average American. Higher charges can make it too expensive for families to stay in contact and even access legal counsel. That’s not right. 

Sen. Duckworth’s Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act empowers the FCC to directly regulate rates for telephone and video calls in correctional and detention facilities to ensure they are just and reasonable. 

This bipartisan legislation is named after Martha Wright-Reed, who advocated for more affordable phone rates for more than 20 years. After Martha’s grandson became incarcerated and she discovered how expensive it was to keep in contact with him, she sued the Corrections Corporation of America for their exorbitantly high phone call rates.

President Biden signed the bill into law on January 5, 2023, after passing the Commerce Committee and the Senate in December 2022. 

Read more About the Martha Wright-Reed Act

Mapping & Maternal Health: 

“Our country has seen a dramatic increase in maternal mortality over the last few decades, which is why we need to work to improve maternal health outcomes for women in Nevada and across the country. By mapping out areas with a need for both increased maternal care and access to broadband, we can better target where telemedicine improvements will be most effective to improve outcomes for expecting mothers and save lives.”– Sen. Rosen

Severe complications related to pregnancy, known as severe maternal morbidity, affect more than 50,000 women in the U.S. each year, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these women live in areas that lack internet connections – vital for telehealth appointments – but current government internet mapping tools can’t identify these areas.  

Commerce Committee members Sen. Rosen’s and Sen. Fischer’s Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act fixes this so that data on maternal health can be included in analyzing broadband and health data at national, state and county levels. This legislation passed the Commerce Committee and was signed into law by President Biden in December 2022.  

Read More About the Data Mapping Act


Protecting Survivors of Domestic Violence: 

“Giving domestic violence abusers control over their victims’ cell phones is a terrifying reality for many survivors. Right now there is no easy way out for these victims – they’re trapped in by contracts and hefty fees. Our bill helps survivors get out of these shared plans and tries to find more ways to help victims stay connected with their families and support networks.” – Sen. Schatz

Survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault and human trafficking often face challenges when establishing independence from an abuser. These include financial insecurity and limited access to the communication tools essential to maintaining connections with family, social safety networks, employers and support services. 

Commerce Committee members Sen. Schatz and Sen. Fischer’s Safe Connections Act helps survivors of domestic violence and other crimes cut ties with their abusers and separate from shared wireless service plans, which can be exploited to monitor, stalk or control victims. The legislation passed the Commerce Committee in 2021 and became law in December 2022. 

Read More About the Safe Connections Act