Senators Blumenthal, Booker applaud passage, introduce companion bill
Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Jerry McNerney’s (D, CA-09) bipartisan bill, H.R. 6394, the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2016. Congressman Adam Kinzinger (D, IL-16) was the lead Republican co-sponsor. A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“Having broadband internet service is important for the more than 20 million veterans across our nation, with the highest population residing in California,” said McNerney. “A broadband internet connection helps veterans apply for jobs more easily, communicate with family and friends, keep up with current events, and obtain health care services. Veterans face many challenges when they return home; being without broadband access should not be one of those challenges. I commend my colleague Rep. Kinzinger for his efforts on this bill and the House for passing it with overwhelming support.”
Low-income veterans and veterans residing in rural areas are at a higher likelihood of not having broadband internet service. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center both report that broadband adoption rates are significantly lower among Americans who live at or below the federal poverty level. Analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce further finds that broadband adoption rates in rural areas of the country are lower than in urban areas
H.R. 6394 directs the Federal Communications Commission to produce a report examining the current state of broadband internet access for veterans and what can be done to increase access, with a focus on low-income veterans and veterans residing in rural areas. The report must include findings and recommendations for Congress and be completed within one year of the bill’s enactment.
“The findings and recommendations from this report will be key for paving the way to get more veterans connected and help close the digital divide,” McNerney added.
“I am proud to co-lead H.R. 6394, which aims to improve broadband access for our veterans – especially those in rural areas, or those unable to afford it. After serving tirelessly to protect our country, veterans face many challenges when they return home. This bill is the first step towards alleviating one piece of the transition back into civilian life through the benefits afforded by broadband access – from connecting with family and friends, applying for jobs, accessing information on benefits and health services, and much more. Thanks to Congressman Jerry McNerney for working with me to introduce this legislation.” said Rep. Kinzinger.
H.R. 6394 passed the House by 411-4. A companion bill, S. 3501, has been introduced by Senators Blumenthal and Booker.
“This important legislation will bring to light the key hurdles hindering veterans’ access to broadband, and pave the way for meaningful action to ensure veterans have the information and tools they need to successfully navigate the transition from the armed services to civilian employment. Access to broadband is essential to conduct daily activities, pursue job and housing opportunities, obtain quality health care services, and stay in touch with family members,” said Blumenthal.
“In the digital age, broadband access is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. The Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act will help close the digital divide and will ensure that the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country have access to tools for communication and future success,” said Booker.
McNerney represents California’s 9th Congressional District that includes most of Antioch and other portions of Contra Costa and Sacramento Counties, and most of San Joaquin County. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.