Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09), who serves on both the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, introduced legislation on Monday to increase broadband internet access for veterans. The Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2016 (H.R. 6165) directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to initiate a Notice of Inquiry examining veterans’ current access to broadband internet service and what can be done to increase access, with a focus on low-income veterans and veterans residing in rural areas.
“Broadband access is critical for the more than 20 million veterans living across the nation, with the highest population in California. Broadband access enables veterans to more easily apply for jobs and obtain necessary vocational training, connect with family and friends, get important information about their benefits and military records, and access health care services,” said Rep. McNerney. “Veterans, who fight tirelessly to protect our country, face many challenges when they return home. Not having internet access makes what is already an incredibly difficult transition process even harder.”
Veterans living below the federal poverty level or in rural areas are less likely to have broadband access. According to the Pew Research Center, less than half of Americans living below the federal poverty level have broadband internet access at home. Analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce further finds that internet adoption in rural areas is lower than in urban areas.
“It is critical that we find ways to ensure that the more than 1.4 million veterans living below the federal poverty level and the 5.3 million veterans residing in rural communities have broadband access,” said McNerney. “By directing the FCC to examine current broadband access for veterans and what can be done to increase it, the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act will pave the way for getting more veterans online. By further directing the FCC to focus on veterans residing below the federal poverty line and in rural areas, my bill will help make sure these veterans are not left behind.”