Universal Broadband

Want to solve America’s problems? Start with broadband

In October 1944, my grandfather William B. Benton delivered a clarion call in the pages of Fortune magazine. On behalf of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a national coalition of business leaders, he offered a forward-looking agenda to deliver a more peaceful and prosperous future for all Americans—not just a few. At the time, that future was difficult to imagine. Fifteen years prior, the Great Depression had roiled the American economy, driving unemployment rates to almost 25% in 1933.

From Places to People—Connecting Individuals to Community Anchor Institutions

Policymakers should help enable community anchor institutions to connect to their users wherever they are. Policymakers should recognize that the mission of community anchor institutions is to improve lives. Broadband is a key element in fulfilling that mission. Baltimore’s public school system has created a classroom in a community center to offer training in internet access. Librarians note that the provision of skills training is a natural fit with the historic missions of their institutions—offering a trusted space in which people of all ages can learn in the ways that best suit them.

Supporting the Increasingly Important Missions of Community Anchor Institutions

Community anchor institutions should be at the center of any comprehensive national strategy to promote the availability and use of High-Performance Broadband. Community anchor institutions use broadband to provide essential services to their community, such as education, information access, and telehealth services. But in the 21st century, community anchors’ missions are moving beyond their walls. Libraries no longer deliver knowledge that is housed only within their buildings or the covers of hardbound books.

What Are States Doing to Close the Digital Divide?

Strong, collaborative relationships between stakeholders are the cornerstone of Minnesota's efforts to expand broadband access. West Virginia has promoted broadband expansion by examining and eliminating barriers to deployment. Colorado has made a significant investment in broadband planning at the regional level. In 2017 the Tennessee Legislature created the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program to support broadband deployment in unserved areas of the state. Virginia employs two programs to achieve "functionally universal" broadband coverage.

New Data Shows Digital Divide Closing & Broadband Competition Rising

The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA) released updated data showing that from December 2016 to December 2018, the number of Americans without any options for at least 250/25 Mbps fixed terrestrial broadband service plummeted by 74%, from 181.7 million to 47 million. And during that same time period, the number of Americans with no options for at least 25/3 Mbps fixed terrestrial broadband service fell by 30%, from 26.1 million to 18.3 million.

FCC Seeks to Refresh Net Neutrality Docket

In Mozilla Corp. v. FCC,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the vast majority of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 decision to end net neutrality protections. However, the court also remanded three discrete issues for further consideration by the FCC. On February 6, 2020, the D.C. Circuit denied all pending petitions for rehearing, and the Court issued its mandate on February 18, 2020. With this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau seeks to refresh the record regarding the issues remanded to the FCC by the Mozilla Court.

What is the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund?

On February 7, the Federal Communications Commission released the report and order that creates the framework for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the latest effort to extend the reach of broadband networks deeper into rural America. The FCC's own research estimates that $80 billion is needed to bring broadband everywhere in the U.S., so the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a significant -- although likely insufficient -- step in closing the digital divide over the next decade. Here we review the framework and note some controversy around the FCC decision.

What Did the FCC Do to Close the Digital Divide?

It's budget season. Federal departments and agencies are making their funding requests to Congress for fiscal year 2021 (starting October 1, 2020 and ending September 30, 2021). And part of the ask is reporting how well an agency did achieving its FY 2019 goals. One of the primary goals of the Federal Communications Commission is to close the digital divide in rural America.

A First for Digital Equity and Broadband Adoption

The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing entitled Empowering and Connecting Communities Through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption.

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: