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Broadband's Impact

BroadbandNow Publishes List of Top 10 Trailblazers for Digital Inclusion

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Ten cities have been recognized this year as Digital Inclusion Trailblazers, Tyler Cooper from BroadbandNow reports. 21 million Americans still lack access to a broadband-level internet connection, and roughly 146 million people do not have access to a low-priced plan for residential wired broadband. These cities are leading the way in bringing unprecedented levels of broadband access and awareness to their residents.

Portland, Oregon: With its reputation for being a progressive metropolis committed to the working lifestyles of the future, 98 percent of Portland residents have access to multiple broadband internet connections and 79 percent have access to fiber.

In 2014, the city’s community established the Digital Inclusion Network, a coalition aimed at “raising awareness about digital equity barriers and developing solutions to bridging the digital divide.” In 2018, Mayor Ted Wheeler instituted a city-wide Digital Inclusion Week.

Austin, Texas:  99 percent of Austin residents currently have access to multiple broadband connections. The city’s Unlocking The Connection program helps bring free broadband internet access to low-income communities in partnership with Google Fiber, as well as provide refurbished computers and digital literacy courses.

The city’s Grant For Technology Opportunities Program also provides financial assistance for upgrading computer labs and improving free, basic web access for all residents.

Seattle, Washington: Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund has helped more than 43,000 residents create resumes, use email services, and take digital literacy courses for the first time. The city is actively engaged in outreach projects such as East African Community Services and Helping Link programs, both of which were awarded grants to replace aging computer infrastructure and provide digital literacy courses to minority communities around Seattle.

Raleigh, North Carolina:  While not as widely known for its tech economy as some of the other cities on this list, Raleigh’s local government has been doing excellent work fostering connectivity and inclusion for nearly a decade. Since 2011, Raleigh’s Raleigh Digital Connectors program and its 163 members have taught computer skills to 3,376 individuals and refurbished 892 computers over the past several years.

Bradley Upchurch, the Digital Inclusion Manager at the Raleigh Housing and Neighborhoods Department said that the Digital Connecters program has been instrumental in helping to bridge the digital divide in the city.

Charlotte, North Carolina:  Charlotte’s tech scene is growing rapidly, and the city is making a concerted effort to ensure that all its residents can reap the benefits. The goal of the Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance is to reduce the digital divide by digital literacy courses, funding opportunities, and other resources for the community to take advantage of.

Boston, Massachusetts: Boston has long been a champion for digital inclusion, helping to establish the Tech Goes Home program back in 2000. The program has trained more than 30,000 people and distributed more than 20,000 new computers to graduates, 80 percent of which have household incomes lower than $35,000 per year.

In 2017, Boston allocated $35,000 in grants to local organizations aimed at bridging the digital divide. New initiatives such as the Digital Equity Fund are working to ensure that all residents have the means and skill sets necessary to thrive in a digital economy.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The city of Philadelphia recognizes that robust connectivity is key to a healthy populace, and this is especially evident when looking at the work they’ve done to foster access within city limits. The city’s KEYSPOT program has established more than 50 dedicated public access centers, providing digital literacy courses and high-speed broadband to more than 80,000 residents every year.

San Jose, California: Already one of the best-connected cities in the U.S, San Jose’s local government has adopted a creative solution to completely bridge their digital divide. Earlier this year, Mayor Sam Liccardo announced the Digital Inclusion Fund, which will help tax wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon deploy broadband and install 5G small cells.

The fund will also provide grants to local organizations seeking to offer digital equity education and resources.

Kansas City, Missouri: Kansas City’s Digital Inclusion Fund aims to provide resources and training to “support local projects that provide computer access; make it easy to get online; help make the internet relevant, exciting, and beneficial for new users; and increase people’s digital skills.“

Additionally, organizations like the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion and Connecting For Good are dedicated local advocacy groups that help low-income residents find free Wi-Fi and computers, as well as offer additional digital literacy training within the city limits.

Madison, Wisconsin: One of the lesser known but rapidly growing tech hubs, Madison is quickly making a name for itself as being a champion for all its residents’ right to access the internet. The city is currently partnering with CTC Technology and Energy to design and implement a citywide fiber network.

Additionally, organizations like Everyone On Madison and DANEnet are centered around providing access to IT services and general computer literacy courses in the city.

Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

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Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

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