Ohio's U.S. Senators are calling on Congress to expand broadband around the country, noting the growing importance the internet has played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are backing a piece of legislation that would build-up internet access in underserved areas like rural communities.
The Rural Broadband Acceleration Act would put $20.4 billion towards increasing broadband access through two phases. A statement from Brown and Portman's office says the legislation will "ensure that some of that money is distributed to communities much faster than the original deadline" for the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
"Without this legislation, many rural Americans would not have access to reliable internet and thus would not be able to safely telework, use telehealth services, or attend virtual classrooms," Portman said in a statement. "In today’s economy, limited access to broadband is hurting our efforts to promote economic development and job creation across rural Ohio and America."
Brown is also sponsoring the Emergency Broadband Connections Act, which would create a benefit to help low-income people pay for internet service. He says broadband should be treated like an essential service.
"Increasingly, people look at it as a utility model," Brown says. "We need to extend electricity to everybody, we need to make sure people have water, we need to make sure people have broadband. All of those enhance people's quality of life and just their ability to exist."
The bill to expand broadband access in underserved areas also has bipartisan support in the U.S. House.