Digital Equity and Broadband Adoption

Current research suggests that low-income people can only afford to pay about $10  monthly for broadband. Anything more competes with other utility bills and the cost of food. Meeting the goal of universal connectivity and providing fixed broadband at about $10 per month requires a multi-pronged strategy - what my Benton colleague Jonathan Sallet calls an “Affordability Agenda.” It includes:

State of Broadband 2020

In Washington, DC, today, policymakers, public interest advocates and nonprofits, researchers, and the business community are gathering for the 2020 State of the Net Conference. Hosted by the Internet Education Foundation, State of the Net explores important, emerging trends and their impact on internet policy.

Creating an Affordability Agenda

Cost is the primary reason that people do not subscribe to broadband. Current research suggests that low-income people can only afford to pay about $10 per month for broadband. One set of participants told researchers that affording $20 per month would be difficult; even at $10-15/month, low-income households are making tough decisions about paying for internet access vs utility bills (such as phone and electricity) and even the cost of food. To meet the challenge of providing fixed broadband at roughly $10 per month requires implementation of a variety of strategies.

US Department of the Treasury Proposes Important New Guidance for SLFRF/CPF Broadband Projects

On March 28, 2023, the Treasury Department issued and invited comments on proposed compliance guidance applicable to broadband projects funded through SLFRF or CPF awards (“Proposed Guidance”). The Proposed Guidance addresses a variety of important questions relating to the use of SLFRF and CPF funds for broadband projects, including:

NextLight uses LTE private wireless to connect low-income students

Low-income students in the St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, Colorado, will soon have access to free broadband services thanks to a private LTE network deployed by the City’s municipal fiber provider, NextLight. In 2014 NextLight built a municipal fiber network in Longmont that currently covers 44,000 locations and provides service to around 26,000 customers. NextLight also provides fiber connectivity for the St.

Achieving Universal Broadband in California

While most Californians have access to broadband, at least two million households (15%) still do not—a gap known as the digital divide. In 2021, California invested $6 billion through Senate Bill (SB) 156 to expand broadband infrastructure, address affordability, and promote digital literacy. We present findings from the first year of implementation, drawing on statewide broadband data and interviews with 41 community partners, spread across 54 of California’s 58 counties. We find that:

Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Response to Members of Congress Regarding Broadband Information Labels

Thank you for your letter regarding the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provision requiring broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to display consumer labels containing the pricing information of their services. This is a critical step in ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable broadband.

Alaska to see fiber expansion

Alaska Communications says that after a successful pilot of fiber-to-the-home service in 2022, it plans to extend its fiber network to another 14,000 homes over the course of 2023. Alaska Communications’ fiber network already serves some neighborhoods in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Soldotna. The fiber service offers three pricing tiers of symmetrical speeds up to 2.5 Gbps.

New York is Working to ConnectALL

New York State is approaching universal broadband through both access and adoption—and recognizes that affordability is a key barrier to adoption. In January 2022, Gov. Hochul unveiled ConnectALL, a $1 billion public-private initiative to deliver affordable broadband to millions of New Yorkers and transform the state's digital infrastructure through new investments. The initiative includes: 

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Access to Rural Broadband

On March 28, lawmakers from both the House of Representatives and US Senate reintroduced bipartian legislation to expand broadband access to rural communities. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act would strengthen funding mechanisms for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF), which promotes universal access to broadband and other telecommunications services. Currently, the USF is primarily funded through landline fees, disproportionately impacting seniors, who are more likely to use landlines than other Americans.