New Law Underscores Importance of Expanding Broadband Amid COVID-19 Pandemic to Improve Telehealth, Online Learning in New Hampshire and Across the Country
WASHINGTON – As communities in New Hampshire and across the country experience an even greater need for reliable broadband amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump signed into law bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen to improve the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband maps, which help determine where billions of dollars in federal funding is distributed for broadband expansion.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical need to quickly expand broadband in rural and underserved communities where too many households are currently unable to access essential telehealth services or online learning,” Senator Hassan said. “This law is an important tool to help expand access to broadband down the road, and in the short-term I will keep doing everything that I can to ensure that every Granite Stater and American has access to broadband, especially during this challenging time.”
“As our kids adjust to learning remotely and health care providers bolster telehealth services, we need to take every measure to ensure Granite Staters have access to reliable broadband to live their lives as fully and safely as possible. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to understand why it’s so important that rural and underserved areas have access to broadband service,” said Shaheen. “This law will help identify areas where broadband needs to be expanded and help ensure more Granite Staters have dependable internet access in the years to come.”
Senators Hassan and Shaheen have been working across the aisle to ensure that Granite Staters are able to access critical online services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senators Hassan and Shaheen joined a bipartisan group of their colleagues in urging the FCC to increase support to health care providers through the Rural Health Care Program to help them deliver and expand telehealth services for rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The senators also joined their colleagues in calling on the FCC to help provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home.
Additionally, Senator Hassan has worked to fix the FCC’s flawed broadband coverage maps and expand broadband coverage to underserved areas. Senator Hassan successfully called on the FCC to extend the deadline for communities to challenge the accuracy of broadband coverage maps. Senator Hassan also joined in sending a bipartisan letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai advocating for an additional public feedback mechanism that would utilize crowdsourced data to empower consumers and states to help inform broadband coverage maps and report any lack of broadband access to the FCC. In December, Senators Hassan and Shaheen joined their colleagues to urge the FCC to prioritize sustainable rural broadband networks as the FCC considers new rules in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proceeding.