US Senate Digital Equity Act
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), is the lead sponsor of new legislation aimed at closing the growing digital divide in communities across the country. The Digital Equity Act of 2019 creates new federal investments targeted toward a diverse array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity”— a concept defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as the “condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.” Among other things, the legislation would create an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State, as well as an additional annual $125 million competitive grant program to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, or communities of interest. The legislation tasks the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with evaluating digital equity projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective. Read the bill text here
The Regulatory Mix Today: US Senate Digital Equity Act, US Senate Internet Exchange Act, US Senate BROWSER Act
US Senate Internet Exchange Act
Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced S. 1166, the Internet Exchange (IX) Act, which will help to improve internet access for consumers, especially those in rural areas. The bill has two primary sections: (1) Authorizes matching grants to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to help establish new IX facilities where none exist, or to help an existing one expand if it is the only IX facility in a core based statistical area. (2) Permits eligible recipients under the E-Rate program (for schools and libraries) and Telehealth program to use such funds to contract with a broadband provider to obtain a connection to an IX facility, or to pay for the costs of maintaining a point of presence at an IX facility.
“You can’t have a 21st century education, 21st century healthcare, or a 21st century business without access to 21st century internet,” said Senator Blackburn. “The bipartisan IX Act will make big strides in closing the digital divide in Tennessee by providing internet access to areas with the highest degree of need.”
“We need to strengthen our internet infrastructure to better serve Middle America and rural communities and improve the online experience for people in all parts of our country,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan measure will help expand broadband access across our country. By investing in our internet infrastructure and adding more internet exchanges in Wisconsin and throughout the heartland, we can help more rural households and rural businesses gain better access to high-speed internet.”
US Senate BROWSER Act
Senator Marsha Blackburn also introduced S1116, the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly (BROWSER) Act. The BROWSER Act requires communications and technology companies to provide users with clear and conspicuous notice of their privacy policies and the ability to opt-in to the collection of sensitive information and to opt-out of the collection of non-sensitive information. It also prohibits these companies from denying their service to users who refuse to waive their privacy rights, empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce these rules, and ensures we have a consistent national law regarding online privacy.
“We need one set of rules for the entire internet ecosystem with the FTC as the cop on the beat,” said Senator Blackburn. “The FTC has the flexibility to keep up with changes in technology and its principle mission is consumer protection. The BROWSER Act will enable consumers to make more educated decisions regarding the nature of their relationship with tech companies.”
“For so many of us, having a reliable broadband connection is a given—we use the internet to pay bills, do our taxes, book travel, do homework, and much more. We can do it on our own time, in our own homes—even from our phones. But for far too many individuals and families—including those from communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income households, and rural communities—getting online isn’t so easy to do, and I strongly believe that in 2019, we shouldn’t be a country of haves and have-nots when it comes to using the internet,” said Senator Murray. “That’s why I’m proud to join with my Democratic colleagues to introduce the Digital Equity Act, which will direct significant new federal investments to help ensure people in our communities have the tools, support, and technologies necessary to take full advantage of a broadband connection when they have access to one. Congress can and should help states, counties, tribes, and others do more to close the growing digital divide, and the Digital Equity Act is a major step in the right direction. It’s the right thing to do for families, and it’s the right thing to do for our economy to make sure everyone is reaching their full potential."
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.