Community Anchor Institutions Increasingly Serve Their Users Wherever They Are

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Digital Beat

Community Anchor Institutions Increasingly Serve Their Users Wherever They Are

Jon Sallet

In the next decade, everyone in America should be able to use High-Performance Broadband. Today, millions of people in the U.S. have no access to robust broadband networks. One essential building block for broadband policy for the next century recognizes the special role of community anchor institutions.

In the 2020s, public policy should recognize that bits are books, bits are blackboards, and bits are basic tools of medical practice. Community anchors’ missions are moving beyond their walls. Libraries no longer deliver knowledge that is housed only within their buildings or the covers of hardbound books. Public education today cannot exist separate from the ability of students and teachers to use broadband connections—both in and out of school. And health-care facilities see and monitor patients both in hospitals and in their homes.

With advanced communications changing how education, health care, and other vital services are delivered, we need an action plan to support the works of community anchor institutions in the 2020s:

  • Community anchor institutions need competitively priced, High-Performance Broadband.
  • Community anchor institutions need to reach people wherever they are—both within and outside the buildings that house these institutions.
  • The High-Performance Broadband networks that connect community anchor institutions can be used as launching pads for new, community-wide service.

Each of these goals is important on its own.

In the coming decade, policymakers should help ensure community anchor institutions have access to affordable, competitively priced, High-Performance Broadband and connect to their users wherever they are. More competition is the answer. Expanding the ability of a broad range of community anchor institutions to purchase connectivity would lower the cost of broadband for all.

Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s

Publicly funded, middle-mile networks that connect community anchor institutions should be open to broadband providers willing to offer “last-mile” service to community residents and businesses.

One short-term answer to the lack of in-home broadband can be found in libraries across the nation that are experimenting with the lending, not just of books, but of Wi-Fi hotspots as well. Many schools have recognized—and are acting on—the same need.

There is no reason to wait any longer. Congress and the FCC should expand the E-Rate program to provide wireless access to students of lower-income families who do not have broadband at home. At current prices, $100 million per year would support the full cost of LTE service to between two million and three million K-12 students.

Policymakers should also explore the possibility of lowering the cost of fixed-broadband connections to K-12 students and to vulnerable populations. For example, the aggregation of buying power by school districts might allow the subsidy of in-home broadband that would support educational uses at prices lower than normal residential retail rates.

In addition, policymakers should allow private companies to access, at their own expense, the broadband infrastructure used by community anchor institutions in order to lower the cost of deployment to residential customers. Community anchor institutions can serve as a launching pad for neighborhood broadband access and, in places where broadband has already been deployed, more broadband competition.

For more details and recommendations on community anchor institutions see  Broadband for America's Future: A Vision for the 2020s. And please sign up for updates around the report.

Jonathan Sallet is a Benton Senior Fellow. He works to promote broadband access and deployment, to advance competition, including through antitrust, and to preserve and protect internet openness. He is the former-Federal Communications Commission General Counsel (2013-2016), and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice (2016-2017). 

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2019. Redistribution of this email publication - both internally and externally - is encouraged if it includes this copyright statement.

For subscribe/unsubscribe info, please email headlinesATbentonDOTorg

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
727 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
headlines AT benton DOT org

Share this edition:

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Broadband Delivers Opportunities and Strengthens Communities

By Jonathan Sallet.