According to the White House, more than 30 million Americans do not have access to quality broadband internet. As Congress considers a bipartisan infrastructure bill, about $65 billion has been earmarked to expand broadband access.
Frank Mathews, Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 4 Administrative Director, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the potential effects of broadband expansion in rural and inner-city America. He also discussed the PRO Act and his Union’s efforts to urge leaders to back the proposed bill.
The dawn of universal internet?
The $65 billion earmarked in the proposed federal infrastructure bill for broadband internet is highly encouraging, Mathews said. He is also happy to see labor standards attached to the bill, the first for any federal infrastructure bill. Furthermore, Mathews is hopeful bidding priorities will be given to companies who do not have a track record of violating workers rights and labor rights
This broadband investment will take the country into the next century. COVID-19 made it clear rural and inner-city areas lack decent internet infrastructure. For far too long these regions have been overlooked by telecommunications companies because the profit margin turnaround is not strong, Mathews pointed out.
He is highly encouraged by President Biden’s use of the term “universal broadband,” language similar to “universal telephone” language prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s. Similar to telephone access expansion during the New Deal, rural and inner-city areas will only get quality internet when it is required by the federal government, Mathews stated.
The efforts to make broadband accessible throughout the country are critical to maintaining strong economic growth in the future, he added.
Canvassing the vote for working families
Mathews also discussed efforts by the CWA to boost political support of the PRO Act, proposed pro-union legislation that makes it easier for workers to organize and holds companies accountable for illegally firing employees who try to unionize.
The CWA and other unions are hopeful a vote on this legislation will happen eventually. If it does not happen this year, Mathews remains optimistic some of its provisions will be included in other bills.
Mathews is thrilled that the Biden administration understands the importance of the PRO Act to working families.
CWA District 4 visited 10 congressional offices and thanked the members of Congress who support the bill. They encourage those who do not support it to rethink their positions.
Mathews is hopeful Ohio Sen. Rob Portman can be swayed to support the bill, but he is discouraged by Portman’s overall voting record when it comes to supporting labor rights.