Two nonprofits representing Florida consumers, taxpayers and businesses are calling on a Senate committee to hold Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel accountable for the delayed rollout of the Emergency Broadband Benefits program.
The EBB program, funded by Congress, offers eligible households a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service. A recent study shows that 42 million Americans lack broadband internet access.
The Florida Alliance of Consumers and Taxpayers (FACT) and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce say EBB’s multimonth delay has essentially denied timely broadband access to millions of qualified poor Americans during the pandemic.
The groups are airing their concerns as the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is holding hearings to consider confirming Rosenworcel as permanent FCC Chair.
“When rural Floridians — and Americans — needed broadband access as soon as possible, Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel listened to the powerful special interests in the telecom industry and delayed implementation of a crucial federal program,” said Julio Fuentes, president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber. “Many of these people denied more timely access are people of color. It is unconscionable that this program was delayed at the behest of Big Telecom.”
The EBB program would have come in handy for rural and underserved markets, said FACT Director Jim Messer: “How many telehealth appointments were missed? How many school lessons weren’t downloaded? How many workers or unemployed people were put under even more stress?”
Messer continued, “This decision to delay the implementation of the EBB program by several months calls into question Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s ability to properly lead the FCC in the public interest. Why the delay? Why did powerful special interests prevail over the public interest? Americans deserve answers to these and other questions.”
FACT and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber are calling on the Senate Commerce Committee to, at the least, question Rosenworcel about these delays.
“Perhaps a delay of her nomination would be an effective way to communicate how painful this delay in EBB implementation was to those who needed broadband help so desperately,” Messer said.
Fuentes added, “Hispanic voters want to know that their interests are being represented across all areas of government. Right now, it’s hard to see how that’s happening at the FCC.”