July 24, 2024 4:17 pm
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Opinion

FCC’s Bulk Billing Proposal Harms Nevada’s Students

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Maria Nieto, President  & Tanner Hale, Executive Director; Young Democrats of Nevada 

As leaders of the Nevada Young Democrats, we are deeply concerned about two upcoming events centered around high speed internet access. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed rule to eliminate bulk billing agreements for internet service, which helps thousands of Nevada students access affordable internet. This proposal, coupled with the recent expiration of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that funded high speed internet access for low-income Nevadans, threatens to undo the remarkable progress made in making broadband more accessible and affordable across Nevada.

In today’s world, reliable internet access is essential for accessing services, healthcare, and employment opportunities. It is even more critical for students, whose coursework is increasingly online. Internet access is necessary for students to participate in school, complete assignments, and apply to attend higher education. With the ACP expiring and bulk billing facing a possible ban, many students may begin to struggle to connect to the internet.

Bulk billing agreements, often provided through schools or the student housing complexes, ensure that students can log on as soon as they arrive on campus. Without these agreements, students may be forced to navigate the complex process of signing up for individual internet plans, adding an unnecessary burden to an already stressful life change. It is also yet another barrier to success for low-income students and students of color, who are more likely to have lacked access to reliable internet during their childhood.

Furthermore, eliminating bulk billing agreements would force college students to pay retail prices for individual internet service, which can be significantly more expensive than the discounted rates negotiated through bulk billing. Many students are already struggling to make ends meet, and in Nevada, the average student loan debt is a staggering $33,711, while the cost of living in cities like Las Vegas and Reno continues to climb. Forcing students to spend even more on individual internet bills, especially without the financial support of the ACP, is not only unfair but also counterproductive to our state’s efforts to promote higher education and economic mobility.

As two young leaders committed to advancing our state, we believe that access to affordable internet is crucial for the success of Nevada’s college students. In response to COVID-19, our mostly rural state achieved what some thought impossible: connecting every single student in the state so they could access remote learning. The FCC’s proposal, combined with the expiration of the ACP, threatens to hinder the progress we have made in ensuring that all Nevada students have the tools they need to thrive.

We are urging Congress to extend the ACP and the FCC to rethink the misguided bulk billing proposal. We should be working to expand access to affordable internet for all college students. By extending the ACP and preserving bulk billing agreements, we can help ensure that Nevada’s students have the support they need to access a fundamental need in the 21st century: high speed internet. 

Maria Nieto and Tanner Hale are the President and Executive Director of the Young Democrats of Nevada.