The FCC recently released their Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion. The report paints a picture of what the digital divide looks like today –
- Americans with the lowest incomes are most likely to go without broadband at home.
- Americans who are more likely to have low socioeconomic statuses due to historical and systemic barriers to education, opportunity, and adequate housing are least likely to have home broadband connectivity
- African-Americans and 50 percent of Hispanics subscribe to a home broadband service, compared with 72 percent of White Americans
- A rural-urban divide persists as well
- People with disabilities and older adults are also more likely to go without a home broadband subscription
- Perhaps one of the starkest divides in broadband access and adoption exists in Indian Country, where broadband is often unavailable
They also talk about national and local efforts to close the divide. It was nice to see the Blandin Foundation mentioned…
Example: The Blandin Foundation serves rural Minnesota by strategically allocating grants to organizations that support broadband access, adoption and digital literacy through its Community Broadband Resources Program. The foundation supports a number of community projects throughout the state. For instance, in Nobles County, grantees are working to establish Wi-Fi hotspots to provide access to unserved residents. In Chisago County, where broadband is expensive, slow, or unavailable, Blandin undertook a community survey to paint a picture of the divide that exists for lawmakers and providers. As a result, providers have expanded service and rolled out significant service improvements. In Stevens County, the foundation supported a consortium of school districts that developed a broadband-based system for providing specialized distance learning for students with disabilities. And in the Central Woodlands area of the state, a Blandin-funded pilot project assisted local businesses with adopting e-commerce and as a result, the program has expanded to help businesses in surrounding areas. All of these institutions, and the others that Blandin supports, have targeted-mission specific needs that are unique to their rural geography. As a community foundation, Blandin is uniquely situated to appreciate and assess those needs and support groups accordingly.
And they made recommendations. I’m going to try to shorthand them below (they are detailed in the report)..
Outreach & Education
- Consider the creation of an online hub that catalogues digital inclusion resources by state
- Consider convening a series of in-person and online National Digital Inclusion Summits across the country
- Consider hosting a separate meeting to bring together representatives of Tribal libraries with representatives of non-tribal libraries and researchers
- Consider increasing outreach to people with disabilities and their representatives
- Commission, along with partners at the Department of Education and other interested federal agency stakeholders, may wish to explore ways to facilitate relationships in states between workforce development programs and community colleges
- Bureau’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs(IGA)may consider engaging and working with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates, and local government representatives including the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to identify and connect community anchor institutions and grassroots organizations
- IGA and the Office of Native Affairs and Policy could also liaise with state and local governments to explore partnerships between cities and/or states and nearby Tribal governments and Tribal libraries
- Support Lifeline Aggregation Projects
- Make Purchasing ISP Services Simpler and More Transparent
- Support Using the Educational Broadband Service to Provide Service to Underserved Areas
- Support Using Existing Federal Legislation to Promote Digital Inclusion.