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.

Digging into broadband funding in American Rescue Plan – still building a have vs have not world

We have been anxiously awaiting the details of the American Rescue Plan where we have been promised billions of dollars for broadband, among other things. We’ve also been promised a customer-centric approach to broadband deployment. Yesterday the US Department of the Treasury announced the $350 billion plan and released the details.

Upon first blush, things look good for broadband – but the devil is in the details. This stuff is wonky but important. It’s hard because we want to remain hopeful and be cooperative but we also want to see the money get to the people who can do the most good. I have pulled out the highest level details to make it easier…

They recognize that broadband is important…

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) highlighted the growing necessity of broadband in daily lives through its analysis of NTIA Internet Use Survey data, noting that Americans turn to broadband Internet access service for every facet of daily life including work, study, and healthcare.

They see a huge gap between the haves and have-nots…

By at least one measure, however, tens of millions of Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides download speeds greater than 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps. By contrast, as noted below, many households use upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps to meet their daily needs.

They measure average speed…

Using the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Speed Guide, for example, a household with two telecommuters and two to three remote learners today are estimated to need 100 Mbps download to work simultaneously. In households with more members, the demands may be greater, and in households with fewer members, the demands may be less. …

In the few years preceding the pandemic, market research data showed that average upload speeds in the United States surpassed over 10 Mbps in 2017 and continued to increase significantly, with the average upload speed as of November, 2019 increasing to 48.41 Mbps, attributable, in part to a shift to using broadband and the internet by individuals and businesses to create and share content using video sharing, video conferencing, and other applications.

The increasing use of data accelerated markedly during the pandemic as households across the country became increasingly reliant on tools and applications that require greater internet capacity, both to download data but also to upload data.

They set the bar higher, but (and here is where it sounds familiar) they set up a two-tier goal…

Under the Interim Final Rule, eligible projects are expected to be designed to deliver, upon project completion, service that reliably meets or exceeds symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps. There may be instances in which it would not be practicable for a project to deliver such service speeds because of the geography, topography, or excessive costs associated with such a project. In these instances, the affected project would be expected to be designed to deliver, upon project completion, service that reliably meets or exceeds 100 Mbps download and between at least 20 Mbps and 100 Mbps upload speeds and be scalable to a minimum of 100 Mbps symmetrical for download and upload speeds.

I don’t understand why they go with upload speed of 20 Mbps when their own reporting finds that in 2019 (pre-COVID) the average upload was 48 Mbps – clearly more than double what they are requiring. Yes, it will be more costly to provide that in some areas – that’s why there is government support! Otherwise we are sanctioning broadband slow zones. Who wants to move to or start a business in a broadband slow zone? This system sets up a second class system because it’s looking at the needs of providers, not residents. We see that more when they address eligibility.

They define eligibility:

  • Under the Interim Final Rule, eligible projects are expected to focus on locations that are unserved or underserved. The Interim Final Rule treats users as being unserved or underserved if they lack access to a wireline connection capable of reliably delivering at least minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload as households and businesses lacking this level of access are generally not viewed as being able to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications.
  • In selecting an area to be served by a project, recipients are encouraged to avoid investing in locations that have existing agreements to build reliable wireline service with minimum speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload by December 31, 2024, in order to avoid duplication of efforts and resources.
  • Recipients are also encouraged to consider ways to integrate affordability options into their program design.
  • To meet the immediate needs of unserved and underserved households and businesses, recipients are encouraged to focus on projects that deliver a physical broadband connection by prioritizing projects that achieve last mile-connections.
  • Treasury also encourages recipients to prioritize support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives—providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities.

The definition of unserved/underserved (they make a distinction between the two) is 25/3; this is much lower than the Minnesota definition, which is 25/3 for unserved and 100/20 for underserved. By not addressing folks without access to 100/20, they are creating another type of future broadband slow zones – where the broadband wasn’t bad enough to fix in 2021, yet doesn’t meet the proposed (or target speeds) of areas that will receive funding. We saw that after the ARRA funding of 2010. Communities were left with “donut holes” where rural parts of the county qualified for an upgrade (sometimes to FTTH) but the towns did not. It naturally leads to uneven service through the county, especially if the provider who serves the cities or towns is not the provider who serves the rural area. It leaves both providers in a difficult position for improving the more populated places. The customers are the ones who lose out.

Side note: We saw during the pandemic that spotty access impacts the whole county. It means some kids can’t learn online, some folks can’t work online and that effects policies.

Another catch here is that providers are encouraged to avoid area where another provider has agreed to build out by 2024. Unfortunately a promise to build by 2024 is not like having a network you can use today or even by 2024. Historically we have seen this with CAF II funding. About five years ago the largest carriers were offered money to expand broadband to unserved areas. Frontier accepted $283 million in funding annually and CenturyLink accepted $514 million annually. Both providers have service areas in Minnesota; both reported earlier this year that “they may not have met CAF II deployment deadlines for 2020.” The customers wait. The customers have been prohibited from making other plans either sometimes because of similar rules for other funding.

More recently, and perhaps more acutely, communities are feeling this pinch with the recent RDOF grant announcements. One provider (LTD Broadband) has qualified to bid to receive $312 million to serve parts of Minnesota. Communities that had made plans with other providers and were in the hopper to possibly get State Funding for broadband were immediately disqualified for that opportunity.  Residents, policymakers and other providers have expressed concern over the RDOF process; and yet the ARP process feels very similar and indeed, the RDOF process is cited in the details released this week.

Pandora’s Box is not entirely open yet though – the details “encourage” recipients to prioritize support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives. I don’t see any demonstrative encouragement here. I will have more faith in the mentioning of it when I do.

EVENT May 14: Emergency Broadband Benefit Day of Action

Folks are declaring Friday Emergency Broadband Benefit Day of Action to help spread the word to your residents and constituents that help is there is help make broadband more affordable. There will be an online event to help people get info to share…

Emergency Broadband Benefit Day of Action

Enrollment for the Emergency Broadband Benefit will begin on May 12, 2021. Every eligible household needs to learn about this program and how to enroll.
On May 14th, non-profit organizations, anchor institutions, and local and state governments will join forces to build awareness about who is eligible and how to reach residents that continue to struggle with connectivity. In this webinar, local and state leaders will share strategies to support outreach and completing enrollment.

Time : May 14, 2021 01:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

There’s also the FCC Outreach Toolkit and USAC Outreach Toolkit for templates that can be used to:

  • Build awareness on social media.
  • Include a section about the EBB in your city council newsletter.
  • Circulate a fact sheet on how the EBB could positively impact your community.
  • Post flyers in community centers and libraries.
  • Partner with faith-based groups and community organizers to educate the public.
  • Make public service announcements on local news and radio stations.
  • Send program info via text message.

EVENT May 20: Signal Centers Accessibility Awareness Summit

Looks like an interesting conference…

Signal Centers Accessibility Awareness Summit on Global Accessibility Awareness Day — next Thursday, May 20th.

Thanks to our sponsors, the event is completely free to attendees: Register here. (Do it!)

Running from 10am to 2.30pm ET, we’re incredibly excited about this year’s packed schedule of speakers and panels, including:

  • Chris Downey, AIA – Keynote at 10am ET: Christopher Downey is an architect, planner and consultant who lost all sight in 2008. Today, he is dedicated to creating more helpful and enriching environments for the blind and visually impaired. His work ranges from a new Department of Veterans Affairs blind rehabilitation center, renovations of housing for the blind in New York City, and to the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. He also teaches accessibility and universal design at UC Berkeley and serves on the Board of Directors for the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco. (TEDx and 60 Minutes)
  • Mia Ives-Rublee – 1pm ET: Mia Ives-Rublee has dedicated her life’s work to civil rights activism. She obtained her Master’s in Social Work at UNC Chapel Hill and began working with individuals with disabilities to help them find work and independence in their communities. Mia is best known for founding the Women’s March Disability Caucus and organizing the original Women’s March on Washington in 2017. As a public speaker, Mia advocates on the national stage for the rights of disabled people, immigrants, and other marginalized communities.
  • Valerie Fletcher – Closing remarks at 1.40pm ET: Valerie Fletcher has been Executive Director since 1998 of the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD), founded as Adaptive Environments. Fletcher writes, lectures and works internationally. Fletcher has been a Special Advisor to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and she is the North American representative on the Board of the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) in Japan. Fletcher has a master’s degree in ethics and public policy from Harvard University.

Mental Health Telehealth Visits increase by 2,515 percent during pandemic

Business Wire reports

Medica members accessing mental health care through telehealth technology has increased by 2,515 percent since the pandemic began in March 2020. Meanwhile, Medica’s network of providers offering mental health care via telehealth has increased more than sixfold in the same period.

More details…

In the first quarter of 2020, early in the pandemic, Medica processed approximately 650 telehealth claims for mental health. During a similar time stretch spanning late 2020 to early 2021, Medica had processed 17,000 claims.

An analysis of mental health telehealth claims provide some insight to the effect of the pandemic. The top three conditions treated by telehealth were anxiety, depression and trauma (which includes diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder and reactive attachment). For those conditions, approximately 70 percent of claims were telehealth visits.

A breakdown of mental health telehealth claims for all conditions shows that people ages 35 to 49 used this service the most when seeking mental health care, followed by those ages 27 to 34. For those claims, women outnumbered men by a 3:2 ratio.

In the first few months of the pandemic, the number of Medica’s in-network providers offering mental health services through telehealth increased from 5,500 to 39,800 nationally. In Minnesota, the number increased from 3,841 to 7,130.

Medica will continue to support telehealth…

Medica has placed a priority on ensuring its members have access to mental health care in the setting that is most comfortable for them. To ensure they have access to the highest quality providers, Medica will continue to reimburse these visits – office and telehealth – at the same rates.

MRBC Legislative Update: Final Week of Session

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Memo To:           MRBC Members
Memo From:      Nathan Zacharias
Re:                       Final Week of Session
Date:                    5/10/2021
Federal Relief Dollars Cleared for Broadband Use by State, Legislature in Final Week

The Minnesota state government will receive $2.83 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March. The Department of the Treasury provided guidance to states today on how they can use those funds. Minnesota will be able to use this money to pay for broadband infrastructure improvements, including our state grant program. Here’s an excerpt from the guidance:

Through the Fiscal Recovery Funds, Congress provided State, local, and Tribal governments
with significant resources to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its
economic impacts through four categories of eligible uses. … Funds may be used: d) To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

This guidance gives state lawmakers more flexibility to invest in broadband. They may use federal funds to pay for the Border-to-Border program so they can use precious state general fund dollars to invest in other areas. Or they could use a combination of state and federal funds to maximize their investment.

The Legislature has less than one week in its regular legislative session. They must adjourn May 17 at 12:00 a.m.. Conference committee work has slowed to a crawl after a flurry of action early last week. The conference committees spent several hearings outlining the House and Senate provisions and adopting same or similar provisions to the conference committee report.

Gov.Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman are now the primary negotiators of the “global budget targets.” If they can come to an agreement on how much the state will spend over the next two years, they will direct conference committees to adopt funding and policy provisions to their reports and, eventually, send the report for final passage by the House and Senate.

The Senate GOP’s public global offer included $100 million in federal funding for the state’s broadband grant program. However, it also contained items that the DFL considered “nonstarters.” We expect the negotiating parties to exchange several more offers this week. A deal on the budget will likely come together in the final hours of the session and a special session may be necessary to complete the work.

The last budget bill in 2019 came together on the final night and included Walz, Gazelka, and Hortman as chief negotiators. We will share more information with you as we receive it this week.

EVENT May 12: Lunch Bunch: State Policy Update

Just a reminder for folks that this conversation is happening on Wednesday. Should be a good one…

State Policy Update (May 12 noon to 1pm CST)
Join us on May 12 for our lunch bunch update from Minnesota Broadband Coalition on what’s happening with the Minnesota Legislature.  Join us ready to contribute!
Register here 

EVENT May 13: Ask Me Anything: Broadband Experts Take Your Questions

Love the idea of this from IEDC Webinars ….

Ask Me Anything: Broadband Experts Take Your Questions

Join us for a free webinar!
Thursday, May 13, 2021
12:00 – 1:00 PM ET

Free

Access to reliable, affordable broadband internet is essential for communities to thrive in the 21st century. Yet for a range of reasons, many places still struggle to get service to their residents and businesses. This webinar will feature three broadband experts to share context, tips and strategies for broadband deployment, and take your questions about the range of solutions communities are pursuing.

This webinar is offered by IEDC’s Economic Development Research Partners (EDRP) program. EDRP will release its latest research, “Getting Connected: How Economic Developers Are Expanding Broadband Access,” in early June.

Speakers:

Christopher Mitchell
Director, Community Broadband Networks Initiative
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Minneapolis, MN

Anna Read
Senior Officer
Broadband Access Initiative
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Washington, D.C.

Amy Huffman
Policy Director
National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Columbus, OH

 

Long Prairie (MN) partners with CTC for FTTH

The Institute for Local Self Reliance reports on Long Prairie…

In embarking on its journey to improve local Internet access six years ago, Long Prairie (pop. 3,300) ended up partnering with one of the most aggressive fiber network builders in the state – Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) – on a solution that meets local needs. The two finished a ubiquitous Fiber-to-the-Home build in 2018, with CTC now owning and operating the network.

They ran into issues, including uncooperative incumbents…

In 2015, Long Prairie tried to qualify for the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program to solve connectivity issues. Part of the grant included doing speed tests to show the incumbents were not providing 25/3 service locally, but less than half that speed. Unfortunately for the community, those tests and the application were challenged by the incumbents and thrown out – another funding wave went by with no luck.

This remains a huge barrier for a lot of communities working to bring the connectivity in their communities up to or beyond the federal definition of 25/3. Incumbents report that they are providing 25/3 when they aren’t, but won’t make updates to improve their network. This takes communities out of the running for state and federal dollars to build networks that work for them.

They found a solution that included a city issued bond and cooperative provider…

The city issued a bond to finance the project and CTC and Long Prairie entered into a series of agreements beginning in 2016, the first of which was that CTC would assume responsibility for the construction of a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network and make payments on the $3.7 million loan over the course of 10 years.

The second agreement was that CTC would lease the network from the city over those 10 years to provide services to businesses and residents. The final agreement was the right of first refusal to purchase the network. At the end of 10 years, CTC would automatically take ownership, or at any time during the lease agreement once the loan was paid off.

CTC was able to build the 111-mile network from 2017-2018, passing 1,303 locations.

Minnesota ranks 33 with average broadband download speed of 81.1 Mbps

HighSpeedInternet reports…

In 2021, our internet speed test results show the national average internet speed is 99.3 Mbps.

And if your speeds don’t’ compare they have a recommendation…

You can always look for a faster internet provider in your area, but sometimes the speeds you need aren’t available. If you find yourself in an internet desert, you may want to move somewhere that’s more tech-friendly.

Ouch!! That recommendation may have been slightly tongue in cheek – or not – but it’s a bad sign for communities that can’t get close to the national average.

Minnesota ranks 33 with an average download speed of 81.1 Mbps.

Here is how they got to their results…

Our results include speed tests from February 1, 2020, to March 16, 2021, and include 3,105 cities. We required a minimum of 100 speed tests for cities to be included in our data set.

We filtered out incomplete, duplicate, and cellular phone data to see what most people were working with on their laptops, desktops, and home-connected devices.

After filtering, we used a total of 1,761,079 results generated from our internet speed test tool to rank states as the fastest and slowest for average internet speeds in the United States.

OPPORTUNITY: Telecommunications Analyst Job MN Dep of Commerce

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is hiring

Job Class: Public Utilities Rates Analyst 2 or 3
Working Title: Telecommunications Analyst
Job Summary

This vacancy is being posted at 2 job classes: PURA 2 – PURA 3.  Final job class will be determined based on successful applicant’s qualifications.

This position performs a variety of tasks to fulfill the Department’s statutory responsibilities with respect to the telecommunications marketplace. The telecommunications unit seeks to protect consumers from abusive tactics, and works to advance competition in a manner that is consistent with the public interest. The successful applicant will review new and existing telecommunications carrier petitions to determine compliance with statutory requirements and Minnesota rules.  The position will investigate problems experienced by consumers, and competitors in the marketplace; draft reports for actions before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; and enforce statutes, rules and Commission orders.

 

St Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) gets grant to support digital inclusion in the Twin Cities

Street Insider reports

Mobile Beacon is honored to provide a community grant in celebration of this anniversary to SPNN’s Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) AmeriCorps program in St. Paul, MN. We are honored to support SPNN in its mission to empower people to use communications and technology to make better lives, use authentic voice, and build common understanding.  We are honored to be able to supply a $10,000 monetary donation, as well as 10 laptops, 10 4G LTE hotspot devices, and free Mobile Beacon service to the organization.

CTEP will provide mobile hotspots and unlimited service to participants who are completing digital literacy training. Additionally, the $10,000 donation will be used to support their AmeriCorps program for in-person and virtual training from providing basic computer skills, resume writing and help to find jobs.

Broadband affordability: customer prices increase faster than inflation while provider costs do not

Derek Turner has a new report, Price Too High and Rising: The Facts About America’s Broadband Affordability Gap

This report lays out the facts on pricing and profits for the U.S. broadband industry. We discuss the varying ways to measure prices, the important differences between these methods, and how certain methods can be used to obfuscate the reality of what is happening in the market and at the kitchen table. We present government and industry data, noting the strength and weaknesses in each form, and highlight how the ISP industry and its apologists use this kind of data to mislead. Some of our findings include:

  • Monthly Broadband Bills Continue to Rise Far Faster than the Rate of Inflation
    (sample stat: That means the nominal increase in broadband bills was more than four times the rate of inflation during those three years)
  • Low-Priced Offerings Are Disappearing, Threatening to Cement the Digital Divide and Disrupt the Post-COVID Economic Recovery
    (sample fact: ISPs are eliminating their budget tiers. Entry level prices in some markets have increased by 50 percent or more in the past four years)
  • U.S. Government Data Contradict ISPs’ Claims About U.S. Price Superiority
  • ISPs Are Enjoying Record Profits as They Increase Prices and Reduce Investments
  • (sample fact: Capital investment by broadband providers large and small declined during the previous four Years)

The paper goes into great details, well researched and cited details. It was the framing of the issue that caught me, especially as broadband’s importance accelerated during the pandemic…

While plenty of goods and services get more expensive over time, broadband stands out for several critical reasons.

First, broadband prices consistently increase faster than the rate of inflation while the providers’ own costs do not.2 This makes this increasingly-critical infrastructure service both more expensive in real terms to users and more profitable for the ISPs.

Second, in almost all consumer product markets, particularly those involving technology, producers offer a wide array of service offerings that attract buyers of all means. But as the broadband market matures, the nation’s top ISPs are increasingly moving away from low-priced entry level tiers in favor of higher-priced, higher-speed packages, which they market as having increased value.

North Branch gets wireless with CARES funding and Genesis Wireless

The Isanti-Chisago Star reports on city-wide broadband in North Branch. It’s been a long time coming but they have it. They found a provider that would help make a plan…

[City Administrator Renae] Fry, who has been spearheading the push for more expansive high speed internet access, told how the process for achieving this mirrored the city’s previous internet access, explaining how it was very slow getting off the ground, but once everything fell into place, it reached a conclusion at a rapid pace.

“North Branch has known for years there is a core where high-speed internet is expected,” Fry said. “But there is about 30 square miles of the community that has been struggling with nothing better than dial-up. And that’s the challenge they’ve been living with, that they’ve been trying to address and have come to their elected officials time and time again to find a solution.”

Fry explained how four years ago, she invited all of the internet providers to come up with a way to provide high-speed access to all of the city.

“And I was told, ‘absolutely not, it’s not in our business plan. We can’t afford it. We won’t do it. But if you are willing to pay for it, we’re happy to chat with you.’”

Finally, Fry said she approached Genesis Wireless. “And I have to give a lot of credit to Jay Manke because he didn’t tell me no. What he told me was ‘let me do some research.’”

Fry said what he came back with about three years ago was putting up about 24-30 towers that would offer point-to-point wireless system, with the backbone being fiber-based, but the delivery is from a transmitter, to a receiver, down to the home. She said the initial cost was estimated at $800,000 to $900,000.

They found some funding…

Fry said once the city received COVID CARES Act money, their initial thought was to apply some of that money for high-speed internet. However through research, they couldn’t be certain if that was an acceptable use of the money.

“The concern for North Branch was that if we spent it for broadband and upon final audit, we’re told it was not an allowable expenditure, the city would have been on the hook to repay that money,” Fry explained.

Once it was figured out broadband was probably an acceptable expense, there was too little time before the November, 2020 deadline to go ahead with the project. However, Fry said city staff was able to figure out the city had previously budgeted for public safety, which was also an acceptable CARES expense, enough money that if they now used CARES money, they could transfer the previously earmarked money over to pay for broadband, which had actually decreased in scope to only require three new towers plus installation on existing towers at an expense of around $500,000.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my elected officials, because they didn’t even hesitate. They said ‘absolutely. This is such a worthwhile endeavor. This is something the city has needed for so long. We support it whole-heartedly.’”

Senator Klobuchar working on broadband portion of Pres Biden’s infrastructure bill

The Bemidji Pioneer reports

On the subject of funding, Klobuchar said she’s returning to Washington D.C. next week for the start of discussions on an infrastructure package. According to the White House’s website, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan calls for $100 billion toward public schools.

Klobuchar said she’s leading the broadband portion of the bill and noted its importance in how it relates to education. She also mentioned that she’s talked with President Biden directly about the need for broadband funding.

“He’s put it as a major part of the bill,” Klobuchar said. “Republicans in their counteroffer also have significant funding for broadband in theirs.”

“We’re really grateful for your support on broadband access,” Lutz said. “Beltrami County has excellent broadband, but that means nothing when so many families can’t afford access, so we’re working hard with our local carriers to provide access and we’ve made great gains there.”

Long Prairie Grey Eagle Public Schools Superintendent Jon Kringen also noted how important improved broadband is for his area.

People with disabilities need broadband for jobs; that’s 27,480 in St Louis County alone

Duluth News Tribune posts a column on the impact of poor broadband on people with disabilities…

People with disabilities in areas where internet access is non-existent or limited are part of the “digital divide,” which prevents them from getting remote job opportunities and which, as often is the case for Americans with disabilities, keeps them at a poor standard of living. In 2015, there were 110,000 people in Duluth living with disabilities and under the poverty guidelines. We know those numbers will be increasing when the latest figures are presented.

A Minnesota government report said there are 27,480 individuals with disabilities living in St. Louis County, the fifth-largest county in the state. Hennepin County, the largest, has 110,150 residents with disabilities, according to the 2017 Minnesota State Demographic Center report. Duluth alone has 11,400 residents with disabilities.

In Minnesota, there are 125,000 people without a wired internet provider with services at their residence, according to a 2021 Broadband Now report. Increasing internet access would give Minnesotans with disabilities the same opportunities as able-bodied individuals. The need to work remotely has increased during COVID-19 and is expected to continue when the pandemic is over.

And a final note…

Right now, too many Americans with disabilities living in Minnesota are caught in the digital divide. But the good news for them is that the gap can be shrunk by improving internet access. Americans with disabilities clearly deserve a more level playing field.