Rather than allowing E-rate funds to sit on a lofty but unattainable shelf without fulfilling their promise to our kids, policymakers should empower schools and libraries to continue supporting the growth and development of America’s children, even if from a distance.
Rural and urban communities need to have broadband available in their communities. We need to pinpoint precisely who has broadband and who does not. Then we have to create an environment so that they can afford the technology and utilize it effectively to adopt it in their daily lives.
Alarmingly large numbers of American families are currently excluded from the digital world. Either they live in regions where it is uneconomical for the broadband providers to deploy infrastructure or they find the services to be unaffordable. Solving the affordability problem will be the province of both the FCC and Congress through reform of the 36-year-old Lifeline program, initiated in 1985 and largely underutilized today.
For most of us, it’s hard to imagine having spent the last six months without access to reliable, high-speed broadband internet. But for at least 18 million Americans, that’s been their everyday reality – limited options for staying in touch with family and friends, lost work opportunities, no connectivity for distance learning and no way to benefit from telehealth visits.