Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

Senate & House Democrats Propose Universal High-Speed Internet

Sep 28, 2017
Press Release
Proposal establishes universal internet grants for communities to build infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) joined Senate and House Democrats to unveil a proposal of the party’s new economic agenda – “A Better Deal: Universal High-Speed Internet.” This component of the Better Deal agenda would bring high-speed, affordable internet to every American by investing $40 billion in broadband infrastructure to connect communities that have been left behind by big internet service providers. The plan would also 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.

“Universal high-speed internet is not only possible, but it is necessary to the survival of rural America,” said Rep. 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. And they are not alone - 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. 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.”

A Better Deal: Universal High-Speed Internet will connect all of America to fast, affordable internet. Specifically, the plan would invest at least $40 billion in direct federal funding using the following principles:

  1. 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.
     
  2. Create Accurate Maps of Areas that Lack Adequate Internet Access: To ensure success and that resources are well spent, we must have an accurate understanding of the high-speed internet gaps that currently exist in the country; we cannot merely rely on providers’ representation of the service they deliver. Complete and reliable service maps that accurately represent the real-world consumer experience are a necessity to ensuring every American gets efficiently and effectively connected to adequate, affordable high-speed internet service.
     
  3. Deliver Internet Speeds Needed to Compete in the 21st Century: Americans should have access to high-speed internet regardless of where they live and those speeds must be sufficient for them to be competitive in a changing world. That means achieving universal high-speed internet coverage that provides speeds fast enough to surpass modern challenges like rebuilding main street, completing homework assignments, precision agriculture, access to health care, classrooms and other business applications. We won’t pursue solutions that provide yesterday’s internet service; rather we will deliver high-speed internet access that empowers communities both big and small to compete and prosper for years to come.
     
  4. 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 9-1-1 systems. Modernizing 9-1-1 is a public safety imperative. Next Generation 9-1-1 will 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.

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Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.