New America

How to Close America's Digital Equity Gaps: Toward a Digital Futures Foundation

Is our practice of dumping the proceeds from the privatization of the public airwaves into the federal treasury, as is now routinely done, the best use of this precious public resource? No. The nation should dedicate a sizable share of spectrum auction proceeds to closing these digital equity gaps and should establish a reliable, proven vehicle to pursue this task. An endowed, independent, and private charitable foundation would best have the flexibility, research focus, long-term time perspective, and ability to engage other partners that such a mission will require.

Use It or Share It

This report updates and expands on a paper the author presented nearly a decade ago at the Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy (TPRC), which predated the Federal Communications Commission’s adoption of a use-it-or-share-it approach in several underutilized bands. These use-it-or-share-it precedents should pave the way to an authorization of opportunistic access as the default policy for a growing number of underutilized and newly allocated or auctioned bands, both federal and commercial.

Public Libraries and the Pandemic: Digital Shifts and Disparities to Overcome

In the fall and winter of 2020, New America embarked on a snapshot study to gather data on how—or if—people were discovering, accessing, and using their public libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on materials that libraries made available online. Our findings, which include data from a national survey of 2,620 people, highlight the need for more inclusivity, more focus on providing internet access, and more awareness-raising initiatives with local organizations and schools.

OTI to FCC: Make the Emergency Broadband Benefit a ‘Rapid Success’

New America's Open Technology Institute urged the Federal Communications Commission to quickly and successfully implement the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a new subsidy to help low-income people pay for broadband service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide $50 per month to qualifying low-income households and $75 in Tribal areas. OTI’s comments made the following recommendations:

How to Revive the FCC’s Lifeline Program: A Blueprint to Build Back Better After Four Years of Neglect and Regulatory War

For the past four years, the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline program has been dogged by neglectful leadership and repeated attacks from the commission under Chairman Ajit Pai. As the COVID19 pandemic and a persistent digital divide exacerbate income, racial, and geographic inequities, this program has been stifled at a crucial time. In this paper, we review the myriad attacks that Lifeline has endured during the Trump Administration—and build a blueprint for a better path forward.

The Online Learning Equity Gap

This report profiles the many innovative options that school districts have pioneered to build or extend wireless broadband connectivity out to student households that cannot afford to purchase high-speed internet access at home.

The Cost of Connectivity in the Navajo Nation

Tribes are some of the least connected communities in the United States. The lack of broadband availability is especially acute on tribal lands, where the American Indian Policy Institute found that only 49 percent of residents have fixed home internet service. Recent testimony by the president of the Navajo Nation confirms that this figure is even worse in the Navajo Nation, where over half of Navajo chapters lack any broadband access.