June 30, 2020
From the earliest days of this unprecedented economic and public health emergency, USTelecom members stood up, stood tall (and stood quickly) to not only embrace the commitments of the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, but to go above and beyond that pledge and do whatever was necessary to keep our customers and their communities connected to the internet.
When it came to maintaining essential connectivity, our message was: we are all in this together.
Indeed, broadband providers of all stripes and sizes – and in all corners of the country – have invested mightily, serving as first responders on the pandemic’s front lines to support tens of thousands of our friends, families and neighbors impacted by COVID-19. As the global economy shut down, USTelecom members have worked tirelessly, and often in harm’s way, to keep America’s internet open and our communities connected.
I’m always proud to share broadband hero stories like Smart City helping to transform convention centers into state-of-the-art emergency hospitals and homeless shelters or Montana-based Blackfoot Communications (with the highest percentage of rural schools in the country) opening free Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure students could stay on top of their classwork.
AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink invested millions to maintain connectivity and support the global COVID-19 crisis response while West Texas-based BBT reallocated unused broadband resources at closed schools to ensure students in need can continue to learn from home.
I could go on and on because there are stories like this across the country. That ironclad commitment to connectivity is a core value, and USTelecom members will continue working with customers facing economic uncertainty because of the pandemic to ensure they stay connected during these challenging times.
But it’s not always easy, and it does come at a cost. Some of our members are small enterprises and cooperatives and feeling the financial strain too.
That’s why Congress has a major role to play in helping support connectivity. Washington has already moved quickly to advance important investments for innovative telehealth programs, and is actively considering funding to support broadband deployment and distance learning programs.
This is a welcome start. But as the economic and health uncertainty endures, we’re asking Congress to consider additional direct support to Americans in need to help cover the cost of critical broadband service and to reform and properly resource the universal service fund programs especially critical to low-income families and Americans whose homes are still outside the reach of a high-speed broadband connection.
The need is real, and we’re ready to work side by side with Congress so that all citizens have the resources to keep connected, no matter where, no matter what.