Christopher Ali

Information Access Practices

Access to information is riding a turbulent sea of costs, technology shifts, and ever-rising requirements for digital connectivity. Although the notion of information as a foundation of democracy seems commonplace in the United States, it took the COVID-19 pandemic to drive home the disarray of access around the country and across the globe. The broader subject of the “digital divide” has received a lot of attention as a proxy for ideas around digital access. Understanding of the divide has evolved alongside the internet itself.

The Bad Business of BEAD

The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides $42.45 billion in grant funding to states via the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program (BEAD). IIJA also underscores that any state receiving these funds may not exclude local governments from applying to use these funds to build their own broadband networks.

Closing the Digital Divide Requires More Than a Quick Fix

In the summer of 2023, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will begin distributing hundreds of millions, and in some cases billions, of funding to states as part of the $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. Expectedly, states are busy creating and staffing broadband offices in anticipation of the BEAD and digital equity monies. Blinded by a nationwide broadband fever, however, some broadband leaders have proclaimed that states will entirely close, bridge, or eliminate the digital divide in the coming years.

Virginia’s Connected Future: A guide for funders and philanthropists to address digital divides in the Commonwealth

Virginia has made significant strides to curtail the many facets of the digital divide that exist throughout the Commonwealth. As part of the Virginia Funders Network’s (VFN) efforts to support the Commonwealth’s commitment to achieving universal connectivity by 2024, this memo recommends several steps that funders can perform "now:"

How the Infrastructure Bill Can Make Broadband Accessible to More Americans

President Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure bill promises the largest public investment in telecommunications in the country’s history. Of the $65 billion allocated for high-speed internet—broadband—$42.45 billion is earmarked specifically for deployment projects through state grants.

Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity

An analysis of the failure of US broadband policy to solve the rural–urban digital divide, with a proposal for a new national rural broadband plan. As much of daily life migrates online, broadband—high-speed internet connectivity—has become a necessity. The widespread lack of broadband in rural America has created a stark urban–rural digital divide. In Farm Fresh Broadband, Christopher Ali analyzes the promise and the failure of national rural broadband policy in the United States and proposes a new national broadband plan.

Counties: The Missing Pieces in the Broadband Puzzle

At least in the state of Virginia, counties are rural, yet they have been left out of the design of broadband deployment and the conversation around rural broadband. Nevertheless, they are a crucial part of the local broadband story, and their support can go a long way in bridging the digital divide. In this article, we offer preliminary analysis of a question about broadband deployment.

Cooperatives: The Unsung Heroes of Broadband

I believe deeply in the importance of connectivity and the role that counties and cooperatives play in that endeavor. I was asked to talk about a few things today: the importance of broadband in a time of COVID; the important role that cooperatives play in broadband deployment; and the different technologies that deliver broadband to our homes, offices, and schools. Let’s start with the importance of broadband.

Affordable broadband is finally within reach

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is trying to figure out how to operationalize the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, and early in Jan 2021 released a Notice of Inquiry to ask for public comments. While we applaud the Benefit Program, the FCC must ensure the eligibility and enrollment requirements are streamlined and build a path to make the benefit permanent through Lifeline. The FCC must not only clarify but take the lead on three key points: eligibility, responsibility, sustainability.