Senators to unveil $40B bill aimed at closing the broadband divide, report says

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A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday will unveil new legislation that aims to close the digital divide by making broadband internet more affordable and accessible, according to a report from The Washington Post. 

The bill — called the Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy Act, or Bridge Act — reportedly calls for $40 billion in funding for efforts including bringing broadband networks to rural and tribal areas and programs that ensure low-income households have internet access. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, according to the Post. 

The need for affordable broadband has become increasingly obvious over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic forced everything from family gatherings to classes and business meetings to go online. A Pew Research survey from last year found that roughly half of Americans with lower incomes worried about paying their broadband and cellphone bills. 

The Bridge Act would also prioritize building so-called “future proof” networks so that infrastructure doesn’t become outdated, according to the Post. New networks would reportedly be required to support upload and download speeds of at least 100 Mbps.

The offices for Bennet and Portman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.