Access to reliable internet is critical to our way of life, especially as COVID-19 continues to impact the way we work, go to school, and interact with our family.
When I was growing up on a farm in a rural town near Gettysburg, we relied on the electricity and reliable roads to do our business and support our family. It wasn’t private enterprise installing those amenities to make a profit, it was the government recognizing that access to these was vital to our way of life. Families across America, in rural communities like Western Maryland and in underserved urban neighborhoods like Baltimore are going through the same thing with broadband right now.
COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Broadband Expansion
I’ve heard from countless constituents across the district, and especially in Western Maryland, that they don’t have reliable access to internet, something that makes it difficult to telework and engage in distance learning. Students without reliable internet access are put at a disadvantage to learn and succeed, further expanding the achievement gap. There is also a growing need for tele-health treatment right now. Solving some of the most pressing challenges in our communities like addiction and substance use means doing more to improve the mental health of Americans. The best way to access mental health treatment while staying safe is through the internet. American families have enough to worry about right now. The federal government must do more to ensure that every household has the reliable access to internet that the pandemic has made even more necessary.
What We’ve Done
Even before we were struck by this devastating pandemic, I was committed to expanding broadband access, and the need is greater now than ever before.
Working with my colleagues in the House, I helped to secure nearly $3 million in funding specifically for broadband expansion in Garrett County.
I fought tirelessly to help secure an additional $345 million in funding for nationwide broadband expansion, among other priorities for Western Maryland and the 6th District.
We convened a roundtable in Hagerstown, bringing an FCC Commissioner and the Director of the Maryland Office of Rural Broadband into our community with leaders from Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties to discuss the steps we need to take going forward to continue the broadband expansion.
As a member of the Rural Broadband Task Force, I joined with colleagues to introduce the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, a bold $100 billion investment that would build out broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities across America. I also organized over 80 members of the House of Representatives to request $86 billion be included in a COVID-19 relief package for broadband precisely because internet access has become essential to all Americans during the pandemic.
Reliable High-Speed Internet Is Essential for Job Creation, Entrepreneurship and Innovation
More and more each year, businesses and entrepreneurs depend on the internet to innovate, connect with their customers, and participate in e-commerce. If we want businesses to be be able to take advantage of all that our rural communities have to offer, we have to ensure that they have reliable access to internet as well. Doing so doesn’t just benefit the businesses, it benefits the communities by creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.
If federal, state, and local governments continue to partner together and put our communities first, we can ensure that every person in the 6th District has access to reliable, affordable internet in their home.