Unlike the cost of most consumer goods and services, broadband prices are going down. Nevertheless, many still struggle to connect. We as a nation need to recognize that the digital divide is not solely an issue of access, but also of affordability and adoption. This will require a bold new initiative that engages the public, private and non-profit sectors to ensure support is quickly in place to help all vulnerable Americans connect. We can start with the 17 million school-age children who have no broadband connection at home—and the shared declaration that no child in America should have to sit in a fast-food parking lot to learn.
Specific 100-Days Actions
- Launch and fast-track a major initiative that makes public resources available to ensure low-income students and all at-risk Americans have access to broadband at home.
- Announce a commitment to more broadly share responsibility for universal service in America. The current Universal Service Fund, which is evolving to focus on broadband connectivity, continues to be funded via an assessment imposed solely on telephone customers. This has led to an extremely regressive 28% (and rising) surcharge on consumer and business phone bills. Universal broadband is too important to our nation to be funded by one set of customers. We need to start over in pursuit of a more constructive path forward—including direct congressional appropriations and expanding the base of financial support for universal connectivity beyond just telephone consumers to include a broader cross-section of the Internet ecosystem, including its largest companies.
THE BOTTOM LINE for First 100 Days Building Our Connected Future:
Broadband—and the work, investment and know-how of the companies providing it—has never been more important. Jonathan Spalter