Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is trying to figure out how to operationalize the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, and early in Jan 2021 released a Notice of Inquiry to ask for public comments. While we applaud the Benefit Program, the FCC must ensure the eligibility and enrollment requirements are streamlined and build a path to make the benefit permanent through Lifeline. The FCC must not only clarify but take the lead on three key points: eligibility, responsibility, sustainability.
All over the country people in the over 65-year-old age group are having issues registering to receive the vaccine. As states and municipalities launch rollouts through shiny portals on their websites, it appears that the seemingly mundane issue of basic internet use and access threatens to bring vaccine distribution to a halt in many communities. This goes beyond technical bugs, or even the ‘usability’ of the websites. It’s about access — to the hardware, to the software, to the knowledge of how to interact with technology, to a robust internet connection and to Wi-Fi.
The Trump administration did little to address the digital divide. The Biden administration and the new Congress have an opportunity to do better. A study by the New Center suggests:
A group of 75 activist groups and nonprofits have urged against sweeping changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, warning that it could silence marginalized communities while making online moderation harder. “Section 230 is a foundational law for free expression and human rights when it comes to digital speech,” the letter says.