American Voters Want Congress to Take Action to Close the Digital Divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has moved much of our daily lives online, underscoring the need for fast, reliable, and universally-accessible broadband for all. A new poll by IIA and Morning Consult reflects this increased reliance on high-speed internet and finds strong support among American voters for using Congressional authority to improve broadband access.

90% of US voters said they would support using Congressional funds to expand internet access for those currently living in areas not serviced by a broadband provider and 88% support Congress providing financial assistance to those who cannot afford broadband. 62% said Congress should act immediately to close the digital divide.

More results from the poll are available on the IIA site.

IIA Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman had an op-ed published by Morning Consult on September 10, “Americans Are Voting for Broadband.” The piece provides an overview of the IIA poll and calls for Congressional action now to reach universal broadband.

Media coverage of the poll included:

Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher on Universal Service Fund Reform

Congressman Rick Boucher, IIA Honorary Chairman, had an op-ed published on September 11 by Nextgov, “It’s Time to Shore up the Universal Service Fund So It Can Live up to Its Name.” In his piece, Congressman Boucher says that in order to ensure that every American has affordable access to broadband, Congress should provide general fund monies for universal service, completely replacing the reliance on the current “tax” on telephone revenues.

Bruce Mehlman on the Digital Divide

On August 26, IIA Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman joined CNET’s Roger Cheng for a Daily Charge podcast to discuss “Crossing the Digital Divide.” Their conversation explores the digital divide and some of the political, regulatory, and technical hurdles faced when trying to close the gap.

Mehlman also had an op-ed published by The Hill on August 14, “Bridging the Digital Divide has Never Been More Critical.” In the piece, Mehlman says policymakers can set up Americans now and future generations for more robust and inclusive growth by pushing toward universal broadband.

Kim Keenan on Broadband and Social Justice

IIA Co-Chair Kim Keenan authored an op-ed, “America’s Digitally Powered Racial Awakening,” published by Rolling Out on August 26. Keenan says revolutionary technologies have a history of enabling revolutionary times, and today’s broadband-enabled smartphone is the newest powerful agent of change.

Kim also sat down for a video interview with Tigner Rand and Munson Steed for Rolling Out’s “A Seat at the Table.” The discussion focused on Kim’s op-ed and the power of broadband to have a positive impact on social justice. It is available to watch on YouTube.

IIA Weighs In on Broadband Mapping and Lifeline

In an op-ed published on August 19 by the Mercury News, “Pandemic Shows Why All Americans Need Broadband Access,” Congressman Boucher says that for our national well-being, the internet must be available and affordable to all. Accurate mapping is needed so that we know where the access gaps exist, and the FCC should modernize the Lifeline Program to make it simpler for low-income families who need the $9.25 monthly subsidy to help pay for broadband.

IIA released a statement on July 16, “IIA Statement on FCC Open Meeting Item, Improving Broadband Data and Maps.” Accurate broadband availability maps are foundational for efforts to close the digital divide. A detailed account of where broadband internet is available today would ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars to deploy high-speed internet infrastructure everywhere.

Congressman Boucher also had a piece published on Lifeline reform by RealClearPolicy on August 5, “Increase Broadband Access for Americans In Need.”  Noting that Lifeline is only reaching a fraction of those it should, Boucher says the FCC needs to establish an easy-to-use, SNAP-like benefit similar to a debit card that consumers could use to pay for the broadband or phone services that best meet their needs. A SNAP for Lifeline would slice through the red tape, reducing administrative burdens on providers and their Lifeline customers.

Rick Boucher on Telemedicine

Congressman Boucher had an op-ed alongside Newt Minow, former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, which was published by the Boston Globe on July 16, “Congress should make sure telemedicine is here to stay.” The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying relaxation of regulatory barriers has occasioned an explosion in telemedicine use, vaulting it to the center of health care delivery. Congressman Boucher and Chairman Minow believe that the relaxation of Medicare reimbursement rules for telehealth was long overdue and that Congress and HHS should now ensure that telemedicine permanently becomes core to the American health care experience.