The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF or Fund) has been one of the nation’s most important tools for connecting our nation, including rural communities, low-income families, schools, libraries, and rural health care facilities. However, the funding mechanism that supports the Fund is under significant duress. The “contribution base” – the revenues used to calculate USF contributions – has declined 63% in the last two decades, from $79.9 billion in 2001 to $29.6 billion in 2021.
Results from a new survey of US adults reveal the extent to which people’s use of the internet has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, their views about how helpful technology has been for them and the struggles some have faced. The vast majority of adults (90%) say the internet has been at least important to them personally during the pandemic, the survey finds. The share who say it has been essential – 58% – is up slightly from 53% in April 2020.
The key findings of this report reflect the need to establish a clearer connection between Federal Communications Commission policy and how Universal Service Administrative Company operationalizes this policy through an FCC-directed Lifeline program strategic plan. Currently no such document exists. This prescriptive document will significantly contribute to the resolution of many of the findings. Broadly, findings, observations, and recommendations span two main categories:
Launched in June 2020, the Chicago Connected program provided a bridge to learning for more than 64,000 Chicago Public Schools students who didn’t have the connectivity or speed to access their remote lessons from home. An inspiring commitment on the part of Chicago’s philanthropy, business, government and nonprofit sectors, Chicago Connected has been replicated in cities across the country and is the national model for bridging the urban digital divide.
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.
Ten years ago, the National Broadband Plan observed that as “more aspects of daily life move online and offline alternatives disappear, the range of choices available to people without broadband narrows. Digital exclusion compounds inequities for historically marginalized groups.” In light of these trends, that plan warned “the cost of digital exclusion is large and growing.” Unfortunately, only modest efforts to address those costs have been expended in the last decade. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates a shift to “remote everything,” the costs of exclusion have grown even larger.
In order to achieve the goal of universal broadband for everyone in Illinois, broadband must be available and affordable. However, home broadband service is out of reach for many low-income households in Illinois that are unable to afford subscriptions. Therefore, efforts to promote universal broadband should include programs that offer access to affordable broadband service, as well as access to low-cost digital devices and digital literacy training, which have been highlighted as necessary to promote digital inclusion and meaningful broadband adoption.
COVID-19 has turned the floodlights on digital inequality in rural, tribal, and urban communities across the United States.
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
The purpose of Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s is to collect, combine, and contribute to a national broadband agenda for the next decade, enlisting the voices of broadband leaders in an ongoing discussion on how public policy can close the digital divide and extend digital opportunity everywhere. Leaders at all levels of government should ensure that everyone is able to use High-Performance Broadband in the next decade by embracing the following building blocks of policy: