To close the digital gap, we need a connectivity baseline, better outreach and continued funding

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society carefully maps out their reasoning for recommending that policymakers keep the following in mind when using the newfound influx of funds to help close the digital gap caused by affordability issues…

To ensure that the market for universal connectivity is well-functioning, policymakers should:

  • Establish a “connectivity baseline” for Lifeline: Having both wireline and wireless data is the norm for a majority of Americans and that is the goal on which policymakers should set their sights. Policymakers should also consider service speeds for plans offered in connection with the Affordable Connectivity Program. Low-income households should not have internet speeds that do not support applications necessary for working from home, distance education or telehealth.
  • Fund outreach and communications: Survey data shows that just 23% of lower-income Americans (as of July 2021) were aware of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, underscoring the need for outreach. The newly passed infrastructure bill allows the FCC to conduct such outreach and the Build Back Better spending bill would allocate $100 million for outreach efforts through the FCC.
  • Provide a reliable funding stream: The current contribution method for the Universal Service Fund is strained. By law, there must be specific, predictable and sufficient Federal and State mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service including Lifeline. The infrastructure bill requires that the FCC develop a plan to reform universal service, that does not diminish its goals while possibly asking Congress to expand them. Funding these goals must be part of this plan.

Also something they mention – we need to make it easy for folks to access the funds they need. I just got a booster shot, an hour ago, because I happened to be at the Mall of America walking with my dad and I noticed they had walk-up shots. This was after my mom spent 30 minutes trying to get me an appointment a national pharmacy; they asked one too many questions and she timed out.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Otherwise the deluge of information on commercial websites and dearth of info on government/community sites combined with everyone’s horror stories on social media clouds ability to see what we need – and getting a shot is easy compared to choosing a broadband solution. We can’t let the paperwork be the barrier.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Funding, Policy, uncategorized by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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