- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2020

More than 20 million Americans lack “meaningful broadband service” as people turn to the internet for school and work during the coronavirus crisis, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner warned federal regulators.

“Under the current circumstances, this lack of broadband access threatens to greatly — and potentially lastingly — exacerbate disparities in health, education and economic equity,” said Mr. Warner, a Democrat, in a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday. He noted that 770,000 Virginians don’t have broadband access.

Mr. Warner urged the FCC to take immediate steps to help close the “digital divide,” including relaxing restrictions on signal contours in rural and exurban areas, and boosting connections using the E-rate program for schools and libraries, which are hubs for internet access during the pandemic. He also called on relaxing restrictions on antenna heights.

This week, the FCC began handing out $200 million in grant applications for the tele-health industry to facilitate remote patient interactions and purchases of new devices at hospitals throughout the country. Hundreds of internet providers have opened Wi-Fi hotspots and waived late fees for some residential and small-business customers, Mr. Pai has announced.

However, Mr. Warner wrote, “much more work remains to be done.”

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