Public Knowledge submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission on May 16, in response to the FCC's Notice of Inquiry regarding digital discrimination rules in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. "Digital discrimination is not just unjust towards individuals, but can hold back entire communities and prevent the nation from living up to its potential," states Public Knowledge in its filing. "Thankfully, the Commission now has not merely the legal authority, but an affirmative obligation, to end digital discrimination.
Despite having just 60 days to create rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program, the Federal Communications Commission’s Report and Order represents an impressive effort to protect consumers. The rules deftly balance the tricky transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program by preventing the most vulnerable consumers from experiencing bill shock while maintaining the ease of enrollment for those who have demonstrated their ability or desire to pay for broadband. Unfortunately, although device access remains key to closing the digital divide and in
The “device divide” is one of the top reasons why individuals aren’t connected to the internet. That’s why it won’t matter how much Congress invests in connecting everyone to affordable, reliable high-speed internet (and it is investing a lot) — Congress won’t be able to achieve universal connectivity without making sure that low-income consumers can afford to purchase a device.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in our country, millions of Americans cannot connect to the internet because they can’t afford to, preventing them from going to school, working, accessing government benefits and connecting with friends and family. To remedy this problem, Congress created the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), which offers low-income consumers a $50 discount on their internet bills.
A lot of people who live in low-income or marginalized communities — including urban, rural and Tribal communities — can tell you that they have super slow broadband (if they even have it at all). Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, a hamlet over, or just outside the reservation boundaries, their wealthier (and often whiter) neighbors have access to significantly faster internet.
How the Federal Communications Commission manages the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will not only greatly affect the EBB Program’s effectiveness at helping those in need get connected, it will help inform how to best implement potential future broadband subsidies to address broadband affordability, which Congress continues to contemplate.
In a surprise move, between the publication of the draft Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Report and Order and the Federal Communications Commission’s final vote on the Report and Order, the FCC added the line stating that census blocks receiving “funding through other similar federal or state broadband subsidy programs” would be ineligible for Phase I RDOF funds.