Business Roundtable Urges Lawmakers to Act on Bridging Digital Divide During Pandemic

CEOs Outline Specific Measures to Address Challenges Caused by COVID-19 and to Make Broadband, Connectivity Services More Affordable and Accessible

December 8, 2020

Washington – Business Roundtable today is urging the federal government to take five actions to bridge the digital divide so that all Americans can stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. America’s leading employers are calling on lawmakers to enact the following:

  1. Establishing an emergency connectivity benefit to support broadband for low-income households as a transition to comprehensive Lifeline reform;
  2. Clarifying and expanding the E-Rate program to support student and teacher connectivity needs;
  3. Funding the purchase of connected devices for e-learning;
  4. Accelerating broadband buildout in unserved areas; and
  5. Supporting access to online healthcare services.

This follows policy principles released by Business Roundtable in September to improve accessibility, affordability and usability of broadband, especially for rural and lower-income communities. This included improving coverage mapping, increasing and modernizing federal investments, accelerating deployment and encouraging private sector investment.

“COVID-19 has presented America’s broadband networks with numerous challenges,” said Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer of Accenture and Chair of the Business Roundtable Technology Committee. “The pandemic has exposed and widened gaps in online access to schools, workplaces and health care, just to name a few. That’s why we are urging Congress to provide funding to keep low-income households, students, teachers, and doctors connected during the pandemic.”
“In both urban and rural communities, the lack of high-speed internet has long been a pain point and COVID-19 has only worsened it,” said Brendan Bechtel, Chairman and CEO of Bechtel Group, Inc., and Chair of the Business Roundtable Infrastructure Committee. “As part of efforts to provide economic relief from the pandemic, Congress should fund the acceleration of broadband infrastructure in these areas, an investment that will have long-term returns in the form of increased productivity, health outcomes and economic opportunities to low-income and underserved Americans.”

The full policy recommendations can be found here