Broadband services must be expanded across the United States, particularly in rural areas, said U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) during an Oct. 20 virtual congressional exchange hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).
“More than 300,000 Buckeye households lack access to high-speed internet,” said Rep. Joyce. “That’s roughly one million Ohioans who can’t access education or healthcare services during this pandemic or are limited in seeking opportunities in today’s economy because the connectivity required to do so simply doesn’t exist where they live.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency for congressional action to expand broadband access and reliability, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which reports that roughly 43 percent of health centers offered telehealth services in 2018.
Currently, more than 90 percent of facilities offer such services, with about half of health center visits being held virtually during the ongoing pandemic, according to HHS.
And while the federal government has provided more than $22 billion to support the expansion of rural broadband over the past five years, the Federal Communications Commission recently estimated that at least 18 million Americans, mostly in rural areas, are living without access to any broadband networks, according to Rep. Joyce’s office.
Among the participants who joined Rep. Joyce in the discussion were U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ); Dr. Michelle Medina, associate chief of clinical operations at Cleveland Clinic; Greg Davis, vice president of business operations for Patriot at Home; Knowlton Township, N.J., Mayor Adelle Starrs; and Shade Cronan, foundation director of Zufall Health.
“I thank my friend and colleague Congressman Gottheimer for joining me to explore ways we can expand broadband access for both the underserved and the unserved,” Rep. Joyce said. “I’m proud to work with members on both sides of the aisle to bridge the partisan divide that has prevented Washington from acting on critical issues like this for far too long.”
The BPC plans to hold more Virtual American Congressional Exchanges, said BPC President Jason Grumet, who added that they enable “members to reach across the aisle and explore issues that are important to constituents in both districts.”