Mar 24, 2020 - Technology

House Democrats' virus bill would fund student WiFi hotspots

House Democrats' coronavirus response plan unveiled Monday would direct funding to pay for WiFi hotspots for students and bar broadband providers from imposing data caps during the crisis.

The big picture: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the legislation after Republicans and Democrats in the Senate failed to move their own stimulus measure forward.

Details: The House's $2.5 trillion "Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act" includes several provisions related to tech and telecom issues for the duration of the national emergency, including:

  • $2 billion for schools to pay for WiFi hotspots and connected devices including laptops or tablets for students in need.
  • $1 billion for an "emergency lifeline benefit" to aid low-income households in obtaining broadband service.
  • Codifying and expanding the Federal Communications Commission's "Keep Americans Connected Pledge," in which broadband providers promised not to terminate internet service because of inability to pay. The bill also would prohibit setting limits on the amount of data customers can use, outside of network management practices.
  • Empowering the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to impose civil penalties in price-gouging cases related to the coronavirus pandemic.

A draft summary of the bill Senate Republicans are backing includes allocations of:

  • $200 million for an FCC telehealth program.
  • $25 million dedicated to rural distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband programs.
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