Harrisburg -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined a group of 39 Attorneys General in urging Congress to help ensure that all Americans, particularly those in rural areas, have home internet connectivity to participate in telemedicine, teleschooling, and telework as part of any new COVID-19 relief or recovery bills.
As U.S. residents know after weeks of learning, working, socializing, and seeking healthcare from home during COVID-19, internet access is critical for basic needs.
“During this emergency where nearly 1 in 3 Pennsylvanians are out of work and millions are at home, it’s crucial that everyone has access to fast, reliable internet. Too many towns—particularly in rural Pennsylvania— have been left behind while broadband is needed for school, for telework, and to access resources including unemployment compensation and healthcare,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “I’m calling on Congress to step in and deliver what Pennsylvanians need during this crisis -- high speed internet access -- no matter what county they live in.”
Because of this widespread support, the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has adopted this position as official policy - a strong show of support for expanded broadband throughout the country.
The Attorneys General appreciate the independent efforts of various companies to increase access by waiving late fees or providing free or discounted access to students and medical providers, but they believe that a national solution is required. They agree that if Congress does not act, disparities in internet connectivity can worsen existing gaps in educational and health outcomes along lines of geography, economic resources, and race.
In a letter sent to Congressional leaders, the Attorneys General urged Congress to:
- Provide state, territorial, and local governments with adequate funding expressly dedicated to ensuring that all students and patients, especially senior citizens who are at risk, have adequate internet-enabled technology to participate equally in online learning and telemedicine.
- Increase funding to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission Universal Service Fund, which provides vital funding to rural and low-income populations, healthcare providers, and educators with the goal of bridging the digital divide.
- With public health experts warning that a second wave of coronavirus infections may require teleschooling and telemedicine to continue for millions of Americans throughout 2020, working quickly is critical.
The partnership of states' and territories' Attorneys General also includes: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Alaska, American Samoa, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.