Alabama’s own 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell joined her Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill Thursday to unveil the party’s $40 billion plan to bring universal high-speed internet service to all Americans.
Dubbed, “A Better Deal: Universal High-Speed Internet,” the plan would invest in broadband infrastructure to connect communities that have been left behind by big internet service providers. The plan would upgrade the nation’s critical safety infrastructure and create accurate maps of areas that lack adequate internet access to ensure rural Americans are not left out. It would also modernize 911 coverage in isolated areas.
“Universal high-speed internet is not only possible, but it is necessary to the survival of rural America,” said Sewell. “I come from the Black Belt of Alabama, an area that is rich in culture and history, but one which faces an infrastructure and technology crisis that has handicapped families, workers, businesses and communities. Without reliable access to internet services, my constituents in Alabama are being starved of 21st century opportunities.”
According to Sewell, 34 million Americans, including 23 million rural Americans, do not have internet access available at an adequate speed and quality.
“Access to the internet has the ability to transform our schools, our hospitals, and our communities by way of connecting rural Americans with resources and professionals from across the country,” Sewell continued. “Today’s proposal to make high-speed internet available to all takes an important step towards providing every American with the tools and opportunities they need to interact and connect with the rest of the world.”
Specifically, the plan would:
- Provide direct federal support for a universal internet grant program to close the ‘last mile’ gap: These new funds would be used to bring high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need of quality, affordable service. Support would be distributed on a technology- and provider-neutral basis, and would be designed to secure high-speed internet at levels sufficient for the 21st Century in the most efficient and cost effective means possible. The program would also have broad eligibility so that partners like rural co-ops, local governments, or other alternative entities could compete on an equal playing field with private sector providers.
- Create accurate maps of areas that lack adequate internet access.
- Deliver internet speeds needed to compete in the 21st century.
- Upgrade the nation’s critical safety infrastructure: Grants would be made available to states and localities to upgrade critical public safety infrastructure – most importantly, the nation’s aging 911 systems. Modernizing 911 to ensure that text, data, video, and other essential digital information can flow seamlessly from citizens to first responders through an integrated, interoperable 9-1-1 system.