A Joint Resolution urging the Federal Communications Commission to take temporary measures to secure broadband access for those affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Whereas, On January 31, 2020, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, abbreviated as COVID-19, as a public health emergency for the United States; and
Whereas, Early research of COVID-19 indicates that the virus is more contagious than the seasonal flu, SARS, and MERS; and
Whereas, In efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the United States Center for Disease Control recommended the practice of social distancing, which entails avoiding mass gatherings, and quarantine, if an individual might have been exposed; and
Whereas, In order to practice social distancing, many schools and businesses have closed, cancelled mass gatherings, and have opted to continue operations remotely via the Internet; and
Whereas, Telemedicine services, accessed through the Internet, are vital to the COVID-19 public health emergency response because hospital-acquired infections dissuade in-person visits, healthcare systems reach capacity, and quarantines prevent certain individuals from physically accessing healthcare facilities; and
Whereas, A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that only 73 percent of American adults had high-speed Internet access at home and this figure was even lower in rural areas and low-income areas; and
Whereas, This public health emergency has exposed the digital divide in America, making it difficult for rural and low-income areas to access medical care, continue education, and maintain employment; and
Whereas, Under section 254 of the federal “Communications Act of 1954,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can secure universal broadband access for those affected by COVID-19 by taking temporary measures, such as approving experimental licenses to expand wireless networks, applying funds to boost connectivity in areas of need, and urging carriers to launch mobile cell towers; and
Whereas, The FCC has taken similar temporary measures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by enabling rural and non-rural health care providers to apply for advanced telecommunications and information services; and
Whereas, The closing of schools and businesses and the challenges of accessing in-person healthcare during this crisis has the potential to exacerbate geographic and income inequality in this country and can be addressed by taking emergency measures that secure broadband access for areas in need; now, therefore,
Be It Resolved by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Governor and the Legislature of the State of New Jersey urge the Federal Communications Commission to take temporary measures to secure broadband access for those affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
2. Copies of this resolution, as filed with the Secretary of State, shall be transmitted by the Clerk of the General Assembly or the Secretary of the Senate to the President of the United States, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and each Commissioner of the Federal Communication Commission
3. This joint resolution shall take effect immediately.
Approved March 20, 2020.