Tester Pushes Bill to Expand Wireless Internet Access for Low-Income Families, Seniors

HOTSPOTS Act will help local libraries provide wireless access to families

As the coronavirus crisis continues disrupting daily life, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is sponsoring a bill to help ensure families across rural America who lack adequate internet access do not get left behind.

Tester’s Hotspots and Online Technology and Services Procurement for our Tribes and States (HOTSPOTS) Act will establish a program to help local libraries buy and distribute Wi-Fi-enabled hotspots to help address the growing need among low-income families and seniors for quality, high-speed internet access.

“Internet access is simply non-negotiable for living in the modern age, and with so much of our lives moving online, it is more important than ever that everyone can access reliable, high-speed internet,” Tester said. “This grant will help make sure families, seniors, and anyone else who needs it will be able to get online and stay connected as we confront this virus together.”

Local libraries are often the only source of free Wi-Fi in rural communities. Seniors, homeless individuals, and students all rely on libraries for access to essential services online. During the pandemic, many libraries have continued offering these critical services, providing free Wi-Fi access to the public and mobile hotspots to check out and use at home. Hotspots and other internet-connected devices are inexpensive, easily deployable, and can help address immediate connectivity needs.

Tester’s bill authorizes a two year, $160 million pilot program with a minimum allotment of $1.6 million per state to allow states, Tribes, and territories purchase and distribute internet-connected devices to libraries in low-income and rural areas.

Tester has fought tirelessly to make sure Montanans have the resources they need to combat COVID-19. He secured thousands to expand internet access across the state, and has pushed the Federal Communications Commission to ensure students have internet access to attend class virtually during the pandemic.