FCC Commissioner Starks Remarks at HBCU Presidents' Roundtable
I called for this convening because I recognize that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are unique institutions and play a powerful role in this country. We must be proactive and create a comprehensive approach to combat existing and potential challenges to broadband access. And this moment serves as an opportunity to do what HBCUs have historically done for our communities—advocate. During my time at the Commission, I have focused my efforts on addressing internet inequality. And I use this term because we can no longer say that this is simply a digital divide.
The Covid-19 Pandemic Shows the Virtues of Net Neutrality
Rather than rendering network neutrality obsolete, the Covid-19 crisis reminds us why it’s such an important principle. The crisis shows that even in dire circumstances, internet companies can provide a neutral network. In Dec 2017, Net neutrality opponents claimed that regulating internet providers like telephone companies had hurt broadband infrastructure investment and that dropping the rules would spur more investment. Other critics warned that broadband providers needed to be able to prioritize certain types of content to prevent internet slowdowns.
The coronavirus pandemic is breaking the internet
To put it bluntly, our internet is breaking. And it’s not breaking equitably. During the last half of February 2020, our research shows that 1,708 counties (52.8 percent) in the U.S. had median download speeds that did not meet the Federal Communication Commission’s minimum criteria to qualify as “broadband” connectivity. By the last two weeks of March 2020 (following widespread shelter-in-place orders across the U.S.), we found that the number of counties that did not meet the FCC’s minimum criteria for broadband speed had increased to 2,012 (62.2 percent).
Where's the Lifeline?
In the past 6 weeks, over 30 million people in the U.S. have filed initial claims for unemployment insurance. At a time when we are asked to stay at home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, many state agencies find themselves overwhelmed by the flood of claims, leaving millions with dwindling resources to pay rent or put food on the table or stay connected via telephone or broadband. A program at the Federal Communications Commission should be a lifeline to keep people connected.
The coronavirus crisis shines light on educational inequalities
The pandemic has exposed inequalities as education has moved online — work that can’t be performed at home, exposing usually lower-paid adults to greater risk; lack of access to child care and quality early learning; food insecurity; and a digital divide that prevents online learning during the crisis. Schools have stepped up to provide nutritional meals, computer equipment, Internet access and cover for essential workers, but they should not bear the burden alone.
Chairman Pai Extends Keep Americans Connected Pledge Through June 30
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the extension of his Keep Americans Connected Pledge until June 30, 2020. While the FCC encourages all providers that have signed the pledge previously to extend their commitments to June 30, we understand that some providers, particularly those in small markets and rural areas, may not be able to do so as a result of financial challenges. Those providers should contact KACpledge@fcc.gov by May 12 if they wish to opt out of the extension.
House Democrats Announce Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet
The House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet—an updated and expanded version of the broadband provisions of House Democrats’ Moving America Forward Framework—is the product of significant collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Commerce Committee, and many Members of the House Democratic Caucus.
Invest in Internet Infrastructure
The FCC says all Americans are gaining advanced Internet access. It's wrong.
On April 24, the Federal Communications Commission released the nation's 2020 Broadband Progress Report. It concludes that broadband is being delivered to all Americans in a reasonable and timely way. But from where I sit, nothing could be further from the truth. I refused to offer my support for the 2020 Broadband Progress Report. That's because, in this crisis, it has become painfully clear that not everyone in the US has adequate Internet access. The evidence is all around us. We need to set broadband baseline standard to 100 megabits per second.
FCC Eases Lifeline Process for Unemployed Americans During Pandemic
The Federal Communications Commission made it easier for individuals who have lost their employment during the coronavirus pandemic and who qualify for Lifeline benefits to enroll in the Lifeline program. Specifically, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau temporarily waived the requirement that consumers seeking to qualify for the program based on their income must provide at least three consecutive months of income documentation.
Members of Congress, Digital-Rights and Social-Justice Advocates Call for COVID-19 Legislation to Support Phone and Internet Access for All
Access Now, Common Sense Media, Consumer Reports, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action, Libraries Without Borders, MediaJustice, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America’s Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge jointly delivered more than 110,000 petition signatures to the Congress.