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Rep. McNerney Introduces Legislation to Close the Digital Divide

Sep 25, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) introduced H.R. 4486, the Digital Equity Act of 2019, along with his colleagues Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislation seeks to close gaps in broadband adoption and promote digital skills training and digital literacy. ​

The Digital Equity Act would establish two grant programs that would be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to promote digital equity nationwide. The grant funding would be used for projects at the state and local levels.

“Connectivity is an equalizer—it’s a gateway for opportunity, and it’s imperative for our nation’s economic growth,” said Congressman McNerney. “Yet, there are too many people in my district and across the country who are being left behind because they can’t afford broadband service or they lack the necessary digital skills. Not having broadband service means that it’s much harder for a veteran to successfully apply for a job, for an entrepreneur with an innovative idea to put the idea into practice, for a student to complete his or her homework, and for an elderly person who is unable to leave his or her home to use telemedicine services. We are long overdue for closing gaps in broadband adoption and digital literacy. That’s why the Digital Equity Act is so critical. I want to thank my colleagues Assistant Speaker Luján and Congresswoman Clarke for their work on this legislation, and Senator Murray for her leadership on this in the Senate.”

“We must close the digital divide so the entrepreneurs, innovators, and scholars of the future have the tools necessary to succeed,” said House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (NM-03). “I am proud to partner with my colleagues on the Digital Equity Act, which will provide needed investments in our communities to promote digital equity and digital inclusion. This commonsense legislation will help ensure that all Americans benefit from the digital economy."

“Americans deserve reliable access to broadband internet, no matter the state, city, block or apartment building where they live,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I’ve co-introduced the Digital Equity Act to ensure every person is provided access to the digital literacy they deserve in 2019 and beyond. Information is power and no matter someone’s income level nor the location where they live should impact their access to broadband internet.”

Specifically, H.R. 4486 would:

  • Create the State Digital Equity Capacity Program, an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each state.
  • Create an annual $125 million Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to support digital inclusion projects undertaken by individual organizations and communities.
  • Task NTIA with evaluating digital inclusion projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.

“Far too many families in Washington state and around the country don’t have access to a reliable broadband connection, or the tools and skills they need to take full advantage of the internet,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "That’s why I introduced the Digital Equity Act in the Senate earlier this year—to bring Congress to the table to help promote digital skills and improve online accessibility for our nation’s historically-underserved communities to help make sure everyone has what they need to reach their full potential. I’m thrilled to see Representatives McNerney, Clarke and Luján introduce a companion bill in the House and take this important next step to help ensure no one is left behind in our increasingly connected world.”

A section-by-section of the bill is available here.

Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.