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Clyburn, Klobuchar push $94 billion fix to digital divide

Clyburn, Klobuchar push $94 billion fix to digital divide
© Greg Nash

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning Democrats hit crucial stretch as filibuster fight looms Strengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths MORE (D-Minn.) are reintroducing legislation Thursday aimed at improving internet access in impoverished communities. 

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act would invest $94 billion in expanding broadband infrastructure and connecting Americans. 

“Access to broadband today will have the same dramatic impact on rural communities as the rural electrification efforts in the last century,” Clyburn said in a statement.

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Beyond building necessary infrastructure, the legislation requires internet providers that use the funding to offer affordable service plans.

It also authorizes an additional $6 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which gives qualifying Americans a discount on internet plans. 

The legislation would also add an extra $2 billion to the $7 billion in funding for the E-Rate program that was included in the coronavirus relief package expected to be signed by President BidenJoe BidenCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Manchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE later this week.

The E-Rate program helps schools and libraries to buy Wi-Fi hot spots and routers, devices that have only become more essential during the pandemic. 

Clyburn's and Klobuchar’s bill also authorizes E-Rate funding to go to making school buses Wi-Fi enabled. 

“In 2021, we should be able to bring high-speed internet to every family in America — regardless of their zip code,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation will help bridge the digital divide once and for all.”

The bill was introduced in both chambers last Congress but never received a vote.