O'Halleran Introduces Legislation to Connect Students and Families with Computers

July 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) introduced the Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act: bipartisan legislation to leverage public-private partnerships to refurbish internet-capable devices for students and underserved families through donation, lending, or low-cost purchasing programs. The bill is cosponsored by Congressman Bill Johnson (OH-06).

Public-private partnerships outlined in the bill will participate in a five-year pilot program within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The legislation also directs NTIA to work with states, tribes, and the Federal Communications Commission to develop best practices to increase broadband adoption rates among underserved groups, increase awareness about current low-cost broadband programs, and expand technical training programs for individuals to learn how to use internet-capable devices.

“As we all adjust to a new normal, internet-capable devices have kept us connected to school, work, telehealth, and loved ones, both near and far,” said Rep. O’Halleran, a member of the House Rural Broadband Caucus. “For our students, these devices have become more necessary than ever before. However, this pandemic has laid bare the fact that too many students in rural and tribal communities are not able to access the technology they need to complete their studies. This bill makes critical investments in students that need it most by capitalizing on public-private partnerships that work to connect kids with computers, tablets, and the devices they need to succeed.”

“I’m pleased to co-sponsor this bill with my colleague Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Arizona,” said Rep. Johnson. “This public-private partnership pilot program can play a major role in helping to close the urban-rural broadband divide. It would assist American students in gaining access to refurbished devices they can use to get online – devices they otherwise might not have access to. The Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act would be a win for rural education, telehealth, and businesses. I urge House Leadership to bring this important legislation before the full House promptly.”

Full text of the legislation is available, HERE.

Praise for Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act:

“The National Rural Education Association (NREA) applauds Congressman O’Halleran for introducing the Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act that will empower schools and communities throughout Rural America to unlock the power of the internet through increased access to connected devices,” said Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the impact of the digital divide, and the Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act takes an innovative approach by leveraging public-private partnerships to expand connected device access to those who need them most, while ensuring educators and stakeholders have a seat at the table in developing broadband adoption program best practices to fit the needs of their communities. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this important legislation that will benefit so many Americans at a time when they need it the most. Our members from every rural school and community will benefit from Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act”.

“NTCA is grateful to Rep. O’Halleran for his leadership on this bill aiming to promote additional broadband adoption,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “Achieving increased connectivity requires both that we provide access to robust broadband services and to the devices on which these services are enjoyed. This bill provides a clear and direct way forward to establish public-private partnerships for refurbishing and providing access to internet-capable devices and to develop best practices for state and local governments to increase broadband adoption across America.”

"Without the devices needed to connect, even those with access to the internet won't be able to take advantage of it,” said Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge. “The Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act is a first step toward giving all Americans the devices they need to get online and narrowing the digital divide. We look forward to additional progress in making sure all individuals have the devices they need to connect."

"Since the beginning of the COVID emergency, nonprofit computer refurbishers have worked heroically, in partnership with local school districts, to provide computers for hundreds of thousands of low-income families,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “This effort has been remarkable but not surprising. Partnerships with nonprofit refurbishers, to provide affordable, reliable devices for new internet users, have long been a key component of successful community digital inclusion strategies.  NDIA applauds Congressman O'Halleran's proposal for a pilot program to recognize and provide financial support for these partnerships.”

“Connected Nation has long recognized that working to expand broadband infrastructure is only one piece in the puzzle to closing the Digital Divide,” said Tom Ferree, Chairman and CEO of Connected Nation. “We must also focus on helping families and individuals adopt this technology—especially in our most vulnerable populations.  This bill highlights the importance of adoption programming and offers a welcome and much-needed addition to today’s discussion on digital equity.  By providing access to more affordable devices, training and end-user support, and generating a better awareness of these offerings, this bill provides for an integral part of any comprehensive digital inclusion program.  We applaud Rep. O’Halleran’s efforts to provide the critical resources and support to all American families and communities.”

“CCA commends Representatives Tom O’Halleran and Bill Johnson for introducing the Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act,” said Maribeth Collins, Senior Director of Legislative Affairs at Competitive Carriers Association. “The pandemic has laid bare the importance of mobile broadband, and a refurbishing pilot program can help bridge the broadband connectivity gap for unserved and underserved individuals across the United States by creating a new way to access devices and reducing the fundamental connectivity cost of a device. This type of public-private partnership, such as found in the Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act, can leverage resources and abilities of the wireless industry and the federal government alike to work towards solutions.” 

“We commend Rep O’Halleran for introducing the Broadband Adoption and Opportunity Act. This legislation creates a pilot program to support the availability of refurbished internet-capable devices available to low-income consumers through public-private partnerships that address an often overlooked barrier to broadband adoption.  The bill will also encourage greater attention on the variety of factors impeding broadband adoption through the development of best practices bringing needed attention to successful strategies that help consumers make lasting connections to the Internet.  As an industry committed to helping Americans connect and use broadband networks, we look forward to working with Congressman O’Halleran and other members of Congress on this legislation and these important issues.” - NCTA– The Internet & Television Association