For so many of us, having a reliable broadband connection is a given—we use the internet to pay bills, do our taxes, keep in touch with family, do homework, and much more. That was true before the pandemic, but it’s even more true now. Far too many in the country getting online isn’t so easy to do. This can prevent people from applying for jobs, learning new skills, signing up for health care, accessing unemployment benefits, and more. That’s the digital divide. While we’ve made some headway expanding internet access to more families by investing in critical infrastructure like rural broadband, that isn’t much help if they don’t have the tools and skills to actually use their broadband connection. The Digital Equity Act is an important bipartisan step Congress must take to help states, counties, Tribes, and others do more to close this digital divide. This bill is an investment in our families, our workforce, and our overall competitiveness in a 21stcentury economy. Too many Americans especially in overlooked and underserved communities – lack access to broadband internet, negatively impacting the way they live and work. This bill aims to address these access gaps by encouraging the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico and supporting digital inclusion projects undertaken by groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest. With this support, we can further our efforts to bridge the digital divide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how essential the internet is to everyday American life. In the 21st century, an affordable high-speed broadband connection is a prerequisite for a wide range of economic, educational, and business opportunities. Unfortunately, too many of our citizens cannot access a reliable internet connection or do not know how to use the technology – leaving them further and further behind in an increasingly-digital world. Our bipartisan bill will make critical investments in digital equity and digital inclusion, so we can ensure that Americans of all ages and backgrounds can not only access a broadband connection, but make the most of the opportunities it provides.”
We celebrate the announcement of the Digital Equity Act because it invests in local solutions. During the pandemic, we saw more local governments, community foundations, and school districts figuring out ways to cover the cost of internet service and purchase computers while also providing technical support and digital skills training. The solutions were local. Digital equity solutions in the U.S. have always been local. On the one hand, this is useful because trusted community relationships are essential to effective digital inclusion work. On the other hand, financial support of local digital inclusion work has been sorely lacking, and now is the time to scale.