PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Noting that people need to stay connected more than ever during the pandemic, Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced legislation to put a moratorium on consumers struggling financially not to lose their internet.
The CONNECT at Home Act — short for “Continuing Online Networking, Negating Economic Conditions on Technology” — would put a moratorium on internet shut-offs during the pandemic and protect Americans access to what he calls “an essential utility” to get necessary information as well as remote learning for students and working from home for adults.
Merkley told KOIN 6 News families have fundamental needs of food and shelter but added “broadband is essential.” It’s important to have the connectivity available for students and for job seekers inside each home.
“We need to make sure these essential services are maintained,” he said.
But when asked if he thought it was time the internet was regulated like a utility such as power or water, he demurred.
“It’s a beast all its own but the most important piece of regulation is to go away from the concept that’s being promoted by the Trump Administration of charging more for the fast lane and leaving everyone else behind,” Merkley said. “Net neutrality, I’m a passionate advocate for. Everyone should be able to use the internet, not let the big powerful companies squeeze out the start-ups.”
Relief money for states, local governments
The House of Representatives has pitched another $3 trillion relief package that would include money to the states and local governments. Earlier this week, the Western Pact States sent a letter to Congressional leaders begging for $1 trillion.
“The House has really laid out a vision for how to keep America on track during the recovery,” he said.
Merkley said the relief money designated in the bill “is essential” for the state and local governments in areas regardless of which party is in power. The money would be used for the fundamental needs of housing, health care, education, public safety. “And those services need to be sustained throughout this crisis.”
As for states re-opening, the Democratic senator said he knows “people are anxious to re-engage in life” without causing a relapse, and he is optimistic people will willingly continue to wear masks and socially distance.
“It’s interesting to think about how we modify our conduct,” the 63-year-old senator said. “I think I’m going to do a little video on how to make sure you open doors with your hip and press elevator buttons with your knee. Keep your hands off of everything and that can go a long way to cutting the communication of disease.”
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