March 10, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the House of Representatives passing the American Rescue Plan as amended by the Senate, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, is celebrating the legislation’s historic investments in infrastructure that will begin to close the digital divide and ensure that more Americans can access the affordable, high-speed broadband that has facilitated commerce, education, and medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. After negotiations between the White House and Senate leaders including Senator King and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) , the American Rescue Plan included $10 billion in funding for broadband, as well as more than $7 billion to close the digital divide for students nationwide. Senator King voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan on Saturday, and published an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald over the weekend emphasizing the benefits of the plan for Maine people.
“As the coronavirus pandemic forced people across the country to reimagine daily life, there was no tool more valuable than an affordable, high-speed broadband connection,” said Senator King. “Over the last year, a high-speed broadband connection has helped Americans work remotely, engage in distance learning, access telemedicine, and stay connected with family and loved ones. But for too many, slow broadband speeds have blocked them from these essential tools – especially in rural communities, low-income households, and on tribal lands.
“The pandemic has cost Americans so much already; we cannot allow another casualty of this virus to be the widening of the digital divide harming our rural and underserved communities,” Senator King added. “Funds for broadband infrastructure and digital equity will create jobs in the short-term to speed America’s economic recovery, and support long-term economic success for rural communities by allowing Americans to pursue economic and educational success, no matter where they live.”
“Affordable access to high-speed internet is an absolute necessity in today’s world, a fact that has only been underscored by this pandemic. Throughout my time in office, my Administration has made expanding access to broadband a priority, spearheading last year the first new state-level investment in more than a decade and working throughout the pandemic to bring high-speed internet access to more families and students across Maine,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills. “In Congress, Senator King has been a champion on this issue, and I am grateful for his leadership in securing this critical funding. This historic investment will allow us to make substantial headway in equalizing access to the internet and in strengthening our economy, especially in rural Maine.”
The American Rescue Plan includes $10 billion in broadband funding for states, localities, territories, and tribal governments. The funds can be used for deployment and other flexible uses to improve broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion. In addition, the legislation includes more than $7 billion for an expansion of educational connectivity and remote learning, aiming to close the digital divide for students across the country who have not been able to access educational opportunities during the pandemic due to a lack of broadband access or a device adequate for distance learning at home. Senator King has pushed to ensure all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic, cosponsoring the Emergency Educational Connections Act in May 2020. The legislation also explicitly allows states and localities to use stimulus funds for broadband investments.