Eshoo, Golden, Booker Introduce Bill to Expand Internet Access and Protect Local Communities’ Broadband Networks

March 9, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Jared Golden (D-ME) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Community Broadband Act, legislation that will empower local communities to ensure their residents have broadband access by removing roadblocks for public-private partnerships and locally-owned broadband systems.

“As our country deals with the ongoing public health crisis and my District prepares for yet another disastrous wildfire season, fast and affordable internet is a matter of life and death. Today, tens of millions of Americans completely lack high speed internet,” said Rep. Eshoo. “The Community Broadband Act will bridge the digital divide and help local governments enable connectivity, increase economic growth and create jobs. I’m eager to see this legislation move forward to better connect our nation at a time when it’s needed most.”

“In so many corners of America, rural communities aren’t getting the broadband services they need to educate their kids, keep good jobs close by, and get quality health care. Many of them — like Calais and Baileyville in my state — are taking matters into their own hands and investing in their own broadband infrastructure with great success. This bill would help more local leaders take the same proactive approach to build out affordable, reliable broadband in their towns, and protect projects already underway in the states across the country,” said Congressman Jared Golden.

“Internet access is a basic necessity, but as millions of students and their families find themselves forced to work and learn remotely, those without high-speed internet access have been put at a severe disadvantage,” said Senator Booker. “Our bill will help give local governments the necessary flexibility to meet the needs of their residents by removing onerous barriers to creating more municipal broadband networks and expand access to the internet for every community.”

Nineteen states have passed laws that either restrict or outright prohibit local communities from investing local dollars in building their own broadband networks. These laws shield incumbent internet service providers from competition and tie the hands of communities that want to improve broadband options or build-out to unserved areas which private providers refuse to connect. A recent study from New America’s Open Technology Institute found that community-owned ISPs are offer higher speed and lower prices than incumbent ISPs. The Community Broadband Act nullifies state laws that inhibit local governments from building their own broadband, preserving the local right to self-determination in connecting communities.

The Community Broadband Act is endorsed by the following organizations:

  • National League of Cities
  • National Association of Counties
  • Next Century Cities
  • Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Public Knowledge
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Access Now
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Coalition for Local Internet Choice
  • Utilities Technology Council

“In a time when high-quality Internet access has become more essential than we could have imagined 1 year ago, communities must be able to build their own networks if they do not have the level of service local businesses and residents require. We are excited for this legislation to create more investment across the entire United States. Within weeks of Arkansas moving unanimously to expand local Internet choice by removing multiple barriers to municipal networks, several cities announced fiber-optics investment plans. These approaches are essential to ensuring all Americans have high-quality access, just as municipal and cooperative approaches were essential complements to private firms in expanding electricity to everyone,” said Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“Internet access has never been more essential to participating in everyday life, yet millions of people across the country are without quality, affordable service and unable to build their own solutions to get connected. OTI's market research has found that community networks offer some of the fastest and most affordable internet service in the United States. The Community Broadband Act empowers communities to invest in their own networks to expand internet access and achieve greater social and economic success,” said Claire Park, Program Associate at New America’s Open Technology Institute.