Airwaves for Equity: Can Spectrum Auctions Fund Digital Literacy & Inclusion?
The public airwaves, also called spectrum, are a natural resource owned by the American people. Last year alone, the FCC raised more than $100 billion for the U.S. Treasury by auctioning spectrum licenses to mobile broadband providers—costs that will increase the prices consumers pay for wireless services for years to come.
At the same time, more than 1 in 5 Americans still lack broadband internet at home, including millions with access who have not adopted it. The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated a digital divide that primarily afflicts low-income, elderly, rural, and BIPOC communities.
Last year Congress enacted laws that will dedicate tens of billions to subsidize broadband deployment and affordability – but relatively little to address the third driver of the digital divide: the need for digital literacy and inclusion. If people don’t know how to use technology, or cannot tap its value for their basic needs, our efforts to connect them are fruitless.
When Congress extends the FCC’s auction authority this year, should it also designate a substantial portion of future auction revenues to make sustainable investments, year after year, in digital literacy training, apps, devices and efforts to close the K-12 Homework Gap?
Please join our groups for this joint webinar and the announcement of a new digital equity coalition. Our speakers, all longtime advocates for a wide variety of stakeholders combating the digital divide, will address this timely topic.
President, The Irvine Group
Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
President and CEO, Public Knowledge
Schools Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition
Senior Director, Equity Policy
Senior Director, Public Policy & Government Relations
American Library Association
Whitney Kimball Coe
Director, National Programs, Center for Rural Strategies
Director, Wireless Future Project
Open Technology Institute at New America