Civil rights groups seeking to close the digital divide and cable and telco ISPs seeking more money to help them do it, have formed a new coalition, Broadband Equity for All, with the goal of creating a "predictable, dependable, long-term broadband benefit program.
The coalition argues that while there has been progress in closing the digital divide, more needs to be done.
The FCC has a low-income broadband subsidy already through the Universal Service Fund, a subsidy passed on to subs by ISPs, but that is less than $10 per household.
The coalition, whose 40-plus members include ACA Connects, Charter, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Microsoft, as well as LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the Urban League, is looking more for a permanent version of the current COVID-19-related Emergency Broadband Benefit, which is giving out $50 per month to eligible households ($75 on tribal lands--as well as a $100 one time device subsidy--to spend, with the over 900 ISPs participating in the program.
"The emergency broadband benefit is a start, but we need a long-term, sustainable solution to begin closing the digital divide for all Americans," said Urban League president Marc Morial.
The FCC said Thursday (May 20) that more than 1 million households have signed up for the EBB in just its first week of operation.
"ACA Connects members, many of whom live and work in small towns and rural areas, know not everyone in their community can share in the benefits that come with having a broadband connection," said Ross Lieberman, ACA Connects SVP of government affairs. "We’re pleased to join with other groups in forming the Broadband Equity for All coalition to address this concern. To make progress, our leaders on Capitol Hill need to engage and provide a lasting broadband subsidy to low-income Americans in lieu of stopgap measures that create harmful uncertainty among those who need government help the most.”
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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