BAINBRIDGE – On Monday, Congressmen Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) came together for a bipartisan discussion about the need to expand access to broadband services hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). Important stakeholders from both Ohio and New Jersey participated in this Virtual American Congressional Exchange, including Dr. Michelle Medina, Associate Chief of Clinical Operations at Cleveland Clinic, Greg Davis, Vice President of Business Operations for Patriot at Home, Adelle Starrs, Mayor of Knowlton Township, NJ, and Shade Cronan, Foundation Director of Zufall Health. You can watch the full discussion here.
“More than 300,000 Buckeye households lack access to high-speed internet,” said Joyce. “That’s roughly one million Ohioans who can’t access education or health care services during this pandemic or are limited in seeking opportunities in today’s economy because the connectivity required to do so simply doesn’t exist where they live. I thank my friend and colleague Congressman Gottheimer for joining me to explore ways we can expand broadband access for both the underserved and the unserved. I’m proud to work with members on both sides of the aisle to bridge the partisan divide that has prevented Washington from acting on critical issues like this for far too long.”
“I’d like to thank the Bipartisan Policy Center for having me on the Congressional Exchange Program and their deeply important work, because, I feel we need more civility, decency, and mutual respect in our political system and in our political dialogue — from both sides of the aisle — and less partisanship and gridlock. This is why a program like the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Congressional Exchange is so important and why conversations like what my friend and colleague, Congressman Joyce, had this week are so vital,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I will continue to work with the broadband providers and our great mayors and councils and school leaders in the Fifth District to help expand access to high-speed internet, to get costs down, and make it easier to install the physical infrastructure necessary to connect our homes, schools, and businesses to the broadband we all need. As a first-world country and the largest economy in the world, access to basic internet should not be an issue.”
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically increased the urgency for Congressional action to expand broadband access and reliability.According to HHS, about 43% of health centers offered telehealth services in 2018. Now, more than 90% of facilities offer them and about half of health center visits during the pandemic have been virtual.Unfortunately, despite the fact that the federal government has provided over $22 billion to support the expansion of rural broadband over the past five years, the Federal Communications Commission recently estimated that at least 18 million Americans, mostly in rural areas, are living without access to any broadband networks. Recently, the Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled its “March To Common Ground” framework to help break the gridlock on the latest COVID-19 relief package and encourage negotiators to get back to the table. Included in that framework was $12 billion for broadband hotspots in underserved communities. The BPC aims to build upon that framework and other bipartisan efforts in Congress with its Virtual American Congressional Exchanges.
“The Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Congressional Exchange enables members to reach across the aisle and explore issues that are important to constituents in both districts,” said Jason Grumet, President of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
These exchanges pair a Democrat and a Republican for a focused conversation where ideas and best practices on issues critical during the COVID-19 pandemic are shared between members and stakeholders in their districts. Topics of these exchanges have varied from health care delivery, small business survival, and other economic and job security issues, and have provided an opportunity for members to share strategies that are working in their districts.