Senator Reverend Warnock Shares Stories of Georgians Without Broadband, Secures Commitment to Connect Every Georgian to the Internet

At Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Reverend Warnock secured a commitment from FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to connect every Georgian to broadband

Last week, Sen. Warnock invited FCC Chair Rosenworcel to visit NE Georgia and meet broadband providers and users, which she accepted

Sen. Warnock also highlighted his Device Access for Every American Act, currently included in the Build Back Better Package, as critical tool to close the digital divide

Senator Reverend Warnock: “I think broadband is to the twenty-first century what electricity and electric lights were to the 20th century. The lack of reliable broadband is hurting our kids. It’s hurting vital services like telehealth. It’s hurting our economy”

ICYMI: “Sen. Warnock, FCC chair Rosenworcel discuss broadband at Jackson meetings

***Watch Senator Reverend Warnock’s exchange HERE***

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, during a Commerce Committee nominations hearing, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) secured a commitment from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who is under consideration for another term at the FCC, to connect every Georgian to affordable and reliable broadband.

Senator Warnock secured Chair Rosenworcel’s commitment to ensure every Georgian has access to affordable reliable internet service after she accepted his invitation to visit rural Georgia last week. As part of Chair Rosenworcel’s visit, Senator Warnock took her to meet directly with parents, students, and local officials about their broadband needs and the challenges they currently face. During the hearing, Senator Warnock recounted several stories Georgians shared with him throughout his travels across the state, including one from a third-year medical student at Morehouse School of Medicine, who lacked adequate broadband at home and needed to travel to a friend’s house to connect. He also highlighted the challenges of working parents when he spoke of a nurse practitioner who struggles to get online at the same time as her daughter. This example also illustrated how the lack of universal access to high-quality, affordable broadband hampers the education of Georgia’s children as well as critical health services.

Chair Rosenworcel also agreed that beyond broadband deployment, ensuring that working families have access to laptops and tablets is critical to closing the digital divide. In September, Senator Warnock introduced the Device Access for Every American Act, which provides free or low-cost connected devices to low-income families. Included in the Build Back Better economic package, this program would benefit over one million Georgia families. Most recently, Senator Warnock helped secure $149 million in critical broadband funding for Georgia providers.

Watch video HERE and see below a transcript of Senator Warnock’s exchange with Jessica Rosenworcel regarding rural access to broadband and connected devices:

Senator Warnock: “Chairwoman Rosenworcel, it’s great to see you again. And thank you so much for coming to Jackson County, Georgia just last week at my invitation. I think it was an important conversation. It gave us an opportunity to hear directly from rural Georgians about the importance of broadband, the challenges they’re having, and how best to get the job done with respect to the signing a couple days ago, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. You and I had some great conversations there, and you got a chance to talk face-to-face with Georgians on the ground.

But I was particularly struck by one conversation we had with a third-year medical student. You will recall he was a student at the Morehouse School of Medicine. And he said that because his house had such slow speeds, he had to drive to a friend’s house to finish his homework—his medical school homework. Obviously, we need that student to be helping us make our way through the remainder of this pandemic, and he’s trying to get online to do his medical school homework.

We also heard from a parent about how the internet is so slow that if both she and her daughter are trying to log on, neither of them can get anything done. She’s a nurse practitioner online. She needs broadband to do work or her daughter needs it to study, and they can’t be online at the same time. I think this is a travesty. I think broadband is to the twenty-first century what electricity and electric lights were to the 20th century. The lack of reliable broadband is hurting our kids. It’s hurting vital services like telehealth. It’s hurting our economy.

If confirmed, will you commit to working with me and others to support the big goal of connecting every single household in Georgia, particularly our rural areas in Georgia and all across the country, to broadband? And can you speak to where that will fit in your portfolio of priorities?”

Chair Rosenworcel: “Thank you, Senator for the question and the invitation to join you in Georgia last week, which wasn’t a hardship assignment. The folks we met with, you know they all told stories that stay with you. I can’t imagine being in medical school and couch surfing just because that’s what you needed to do to go to class during a pandemic. Though I have some conviction he’s going to be an awfully good doctor one day.

But the bottom line is this is our moment. It’s like what rural electrification was in the prior century. We’re going to do something audacious. We’re going to connect every household in this country, and we’re not going to stop until we get 100 percent of us with fast, reliable, and affordable broadband. I think we should say it that clearly and that simply because it has to be our goal. That’s how we’re going to produce more equity in this country and more opportunity, not just in that corner of Georgia but throughout the entire nation.”

Senator Warnock: “Thank you, and I was honored to be there with you as we talked and heard directly from these families. The broadband issue, as you know, is multi-tiered. We’re talking about accessibility. We’re talking about affordability. We’re talking about access to devices to actually take advantage of broadband.

Families need devices. They couldn’t get online, but some can’t afford laptops and tablets. And when working families are struggling to afford monthly bills, they don’t have hundreds of dollars just lying around to purchase a device. In fact, about four in ten lower-income families don’t have a laptop or tablet at home. Do you agree that ensuring all families have access to laptops and tablets is a critical component to closing the digital divide?”

Chair Rosenworcel: “Yes, I do.”

Senator Warnock: “Thank you so much. I agree, obviously. That’s why I introduced the Device Access for Every American Act. This bill would provide essential devices like laptops and tablets for free to low-income families, so that parents and kids can access opportunities for work, school, health, and more. I’m so glad this legislation is part of the Build Back Better package, and I’m going to work really hard until we get it signed into law. I look forward to with you in the future to make sure that everybody is connected.”

Watch Senator Warnock’s full exchange HERE.