FCC's Starks to Provide Update on DOER Program

USTelecom is holding a Webinar July 7 with FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks to talk about universal digital equity and inclusion. 

Closing the digital divide has become job one (and two and three) for Washington as the pandemic has made remote work and learning and medicine the new normal and universal broadband a priority. 

The webinar will be a conversation between Starks and USTelecom president Jonathan Spalter about the intersection of tech policy and social justice. 

USTelecom said Starks will also provide new details on his Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition (DOER) Program. 

Earlier this month, Starks created the DOER Program to highlight organizations and individuals who, " through their actions and responses to the COVID-19 crisis, have helped to make quality affordable broadband service available to unserved or underserved communities." 

Starks on June 8 called for nominations for candidates for DOER recognition, saying he was looking for those who "demonstrate a dedication to public service and community advancement by providing or supporting access to high-speed broadband; creating or advancing affordable options for connectivity to individuals and communities especially those most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis; leveraging the use of broadband to improve healthcare, education, public safety, civic engagement, or other essential services; or promoting digital education and literacy." 

The nominations are due July 8 and will be reviewed by an advisory board from diverse sectors to identify those how have gone "above and beyond." 

A Starks spokesperson would not say how many nominations they have gotten, but did say: "We are pleased with the steady stream of nominations received thus far," but that they would get a "token of recognition" sometime in August.

He will likely need a lot of plaques. For example, over 750 ISPs agreed to FCC chairman Ajit Pai's voluntary pledge not to cut off subs for nonpayment during the pandemic, as well as to waive late fees and open WiFi hotspots to everyone, sub or nonsub. Some went beyond that to support telehealth, distance learning, and more. 

In an interview this week for C-SPAN's Communicator Series, Spalter said that even with the expiration of the FCC pledge June 30, his member companies continue to work with subs on an individual basis to keep them connected as well as with Congress and state authorities to provide additional resources and tools to support its customers.

John Eggerton

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.