Khanna: Coronavirus has 'accelerated' the need for rural broadband

Khanna: Coronavirus has 'accelerated' the need for rural broadband
© Greg Nash

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities Democrats offer bills to boost IRS audits of rich, corporations MORE (D-Calif.) said the coronavirus pandemic has “accelerated” the need to expand broadband into rural parts of the country as more of the country works remotely.

“I think it's accelerated the need for that,” Khanna, a top progressive in the House, told The Hill's Steve Clemons. 

“I mean, first of all, tech companies realized that remote work is more possible. Facebook has said that they're going to go all remote, or at least half of their staff of their employees are going to be remote. Twitter has said the same thing. So, I think we're seeing that we're gonna have more decentralization of technology jobs and opportunities.” 

Khanna pointed to legislation introduced by House Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnA better response to political violence in America Exclusive 'Lucky' excerpt: Vow of Black woman on Supreme Court was Biden turning point Clyburn: Bush told me I'm 'savior' for Biden endorsement MORE (D-S.C.) that would spend over $80 billion on expanding broadband as an avenue to help bring better internet connection to the whole country.

Democrats, particularly those representing rural states and districts, have underscored the need to expand internet access for months, saying there is a noticeable gap in broadband capabilities between their constituents and people in more urban areas. 

Clyburn last year announced the creation of an all-Democrat task force on rural broadband, saying it is “unacceptable” that rural areas have limited internet access. 

“If rural America is to thrive in the 21st century information economy, it must have affordable and accessible internet service to every community,” he said. 

Khanna added that expanding rural broadband and enabling more people to work across the country could ease partisan tensions, citing animosity from conservatives toward social media platforms.

“Imagine, just for a thought experiment that some of these social media companies had decentralized work. They actually had employees in the Midwest, in the South who also were part of creating this 21st century public forum,” he said.

“They would be much less likely to label these tech folks as other. I think this would actually not just help our economics it would help some of the national cohesiveness that’s missing in this country.”