Democrats propose making it illegal for telcos to shut off internet service in a pandemic

Democrats also propose $50 monthly discounts with low-income broadband fund

A COVID-19 relief package proposed by Democrats in the House and Senate goes beyond FCC protections, and also includes a provision that "prohibits telephone and broadband service providers from stopping service to consumers unable to pay during the duration of the emergency," according to House Democrats.

Here is Senator Jeff Merkley's announcement of the proposed legislation.

The bill has a long way to go in the Republican-controlled Senate, however.

Excerpt from Ars Technica by Jon Brodkin:

A proposed US law would make it illegal for telecom providers to terminate Internet or phone service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was submitted in the Senate today by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"Now—as millions of Americans hunker down, work from home, and engage in remote learning—would be the absolute worst time for Americans to lose a critical utility like Internet service," Merkley said in an announcement.

Separately, House Democratic leadership today unveiled a $3 trillion relief package that includes at least $4 billion for an "emergency broadband connectivity fund." That money, if approved, would be given to ISPs that provide discounts to low-income households and people who lose their jobs. Subsidies would be up to $50 a month for most low-income households and up to $75 for households in tribal areas. Another $1.5 billion would be allotted to Wi-Fi hotspots and other telecom equipment for schools and libraries.


House Committee on Energy and Commerce statement:
Energy and Commerce Committee Works to Keep Americans Online During COVID-19

Read more at Ars Technica:
Democrats try to ban Internet shutoffs until pandemic is over

Related reporting at The Verge:
House Democrats want $5.5 billion for pandemic broadband funding

[via techmeme]