This week the Federal Communications Commission is expected to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. As proposed, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will make available $20.4 billion to subsidize deployment of high-speed internet networks to rural areas that don’t have adequate service now.
In Washington, DC, today, policymakers, public interest advocates and nonprofits, researchers, and the business community are gathering for the 2020 State of the Net Conference. Hosted by the Internet Education Foundation, State of the Net explores important, emerging trends and their impact on internet policy.
Cost is the primary reason that people do not subscribe to broadband. Current research suggests that low-income people can only afford to pay about $10 per month for broadband. One set of participants told researchers that affording $20 per month would be difficult; even at $10-15/month, low-income households are making tough decisions about paying for internet access vs utility bills (such as phone and electricity) and even the cost of food. To meet the challenge of providing fixed broadband at roughly $10 per month requires implementation of a variety of strategies.
Anne Schwieger, Boston’s broadband and digital equity advocate, explains: “Broadband is best understood as an ecology that allows places and people to adapt, evolve, and create.” But for too many people, the digital skills needed to use broadband effectively are too elusive. Governments—with nonprofits, private broadband providers, and community support—are working to ensure that broadband is not just deployed but used. That’s a multifaceted effort that depends on trust and resources.
This week we learned that the Federal Communications Commission will vote on its latest plan to subsidize broadband deployment in rural areas at its January meeting. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, first proposed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai back in August, will provide up to $20.4 billion over the next decade to support the deployment of broadband networks in those parts of rural America that currently lack fixed broadband service that meets the FCC's baseline speed standards (25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload).
Broadband’s fundamental value doesn’t come from connecting computers to networks; its value comes from connecting people to opportunity, and society to new solutions. When a broadband network is available but a person who wants to use it can’t do so, then the network is less valuable to everyone else who does use it. That's because the he benefits of broadband adoption do not flow only to the people who are new broadband users. Expanding broadband usage can grow the U.S. economy broadly. Expanding broadband usage, furthering civic engagement, can build stronger democratic institutions.
High-Performance Broadband delivers opportunities and strengthens communities. In the Digital Age, open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for — and achieving — the American Dream. But since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has struggled with a persistent dilemma called the digital divide — the unfortunate reality that for too many people, meaningful connectivity is out of reach.
There was no "Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you" moment; instead, 50 years ago in 1969, there was an attempt to login on ARPANET that ended after "lo" because of a system crash. That inauspicious moment led to our connected world of 2019, a time when more than 4 billion people have internet access, and the number of devices connected to internet networks is more than double the global population. But for all the internet's impact, for all those devices, and even though so many have access, too many people remain unconnected.