May 22, 2024 1:35 am
Search
Close this search box.

Opinion

Seniors Need Broadband Too

iStock

By: Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui

High-speed internet is a necessity, not a luxury. That’s especially true for the over 400,000 seniors that live in Nevada. For these Nevadans, broadband connectivity increases health care options and economic opportunity, and decreases feelings of isolation, which is why I continue to support efforts to expand broadband, including bipartisan broadband investments like the BEAD Program and Affordable Connectivity Program, which Congress passed and President Biden signed into law.

As policymakers we should be working to complement these investments with additional strategies that reduce broadband costs and make connectivity more accessible, but a recent FCC proposal to ban bulk billing agreements could do the opposite. Bulk billing agreements for broadband allow multi-tenant housing communities in Nevada – which include affordable housing developments, senior living communities, and more – to negotiate discounted rates with internet service providers (ISPs) on behalf of their residents. As a policymaker who has worked to help bring affordable housing and rent stabilization to seniors, our most vulnerable population, this FCC policy jeopardizes the work we are doing in Nevada.

While it does seem that the FCC’s proposal has noble intentions, its execution and overly broad scope are deeply flawed. The proposal appears aimed at bad-faith apartment complex owners who, in some cases, take advantage of bulk billing agreements to profit off their tenants. They do this by not issuing the proper disclaimers and not being transparent with tenants about the
guidelines of the contract, then charging them the fees later.

For those few bad actors that abuse their power to make a profit, the FCC can and should hold them accountable.

But the problem is these bad actors represent such a small fraction of the millions of Americans who take part in and greatly benefit from bulk billing agreements. In 2010, the FCC during the Obama Administration acknowledged this, affirming that bulk billing “predominantly benefits consumers, through reduced rates and operational efficiencies, and by enhancing deployment of broadband.”

As someone who works to pass policies that protect older Nevadans, it’s impossible to overlook the ways in which this proposal would raise prices for seniors, especially those living in senior living communities, many of whom live on a fixed income. Without the savings that bulk billing agreements provide, many seniors on a fixed income could have their connectivity threatened.

While going after a dishonest landlord who abuses bulk billing may be necessary, it’s hard to see how banning bulk billing in senior living communities or affordable housing developments would be for the greater good.

The FCC should rethink this proposal and all of the unintended consequences that come with it. In my view, the agency appears to be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut – there are smarter, more pinpointed actions regulators can take to hold bad actors accountable without hurting the countless Americans that receive significant savings thanks to their bulk billing agreement.

Sandra Jauregui serves as the Majority Leader of the Nevada State Assembly. She was first elected to office in 2016 to represent Assembly District 42. Sandra is a graduate of UNLV. Sandra has spent her time in the Assembly championing affordability in housing and gun violence prevention. 

Report: NV fares well with transgender rights

“Nevada is the only state that has a constitutional protection against discrimination, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Redfield. “There is an extraordinarily broad protection for LGBTQ people in Nevada, and that is probably why Nevada didn’t show up on any of our lists this year.”