I am so happy to announce the creation of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
There is a clear need among non-profit organizations and libraries for a national broadband adoption advocacy organization. Three federal agencies (National Telecommunications and Information Administration [NTIA], Housing and Urban Development [HUD], Federal Communications Commission [FCC]), plus the White House, are focusing significant attention and possibly significant resources on broadband adoption. How significant the resources will be could depend upon strong advocacy by broadband adoption practitioners.
There are groups who include broadband adoption in their advocacy work, but there has been a distinct lack of representation of on-the-ground broadband adoption practitioners providing broadband adoption expertise at the federal level. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has filled that gap. The purpose of NDIA is to be a unified voice for local technology training, home broadband access, and public broadband access programs. We work collaboratively to craft, identify, and disseminate operational resources for digital inclusion programs while serving as a bridge to policymakers and the general public.
Immediate Policy Opportunities To Increase Broadband Adoption in the United States
1. The FCC plans to initiate a rulemaking process in summer 2015 to include broadband as an allowable use of Lifeline funds for low-income Americans. Lifeline currently provides a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers. An expanded Lifeline program with funding available to support the cost of broadband for low-income consumers could be incredibly helpful to raising broadband adoption rates in the United States. While cost is certainly not the only barrier to adoption and the federal subsidy might only cover a portion of a chosen broadband plan, the effort is one of the most aggressive, broad steps the federal government could take to support broadband adoption. We at NDIA have already begun having conversations with the FCC and are refining a list of Lifeline Reform Questions and Suggestions.
2. The President’s interagency Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC) announced that it is seeking public comment on how federal agencies can promote broadband deployment, adoption, and competition. The Council, which is made up of 25 federal agencies, is tasked with developing a framework of recommendations to explore ways to remove unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers, incentivize investment, and align funding polices and decisions to support broadband access and adoption. The BOC’s Request for Comments is NDIA’s opportunity to gain public attention (and action!) on specific ways federal agencies can modernize current programs to increase broadband adoption without Congressional action. Comments are due June 10, 2015. NDIA is compiling a list of suggestions for the BOC.
The evidence is clear. To successfully increase broadband use in the U.S. we must have low-cost options AND local training/support, including a diverse set of local partners with established roots in the community. Trust of the individual and organization providing instruction on technology use and explaining broadband provider options is essential. This point has been reiterated in John Horrigan’s evaluation of Comcast’s Internet Essentials, an independent review of CenturyLink’s Internet Basics Program, and a myriad of documentation of National Telecommunication Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), particularly the NTIA Broadband Adoption Toolkit.
Fortunately, our local non-profit organizations, libraries, churches, and public housing agencies have been providing technology training and access for decades. Because the services are locally grown, they vary widely from basic technology classes taught by volunteers to home broadband programs with required technology training components. Unfortunately, many of these organizations continually struggle for operational funding. For the most part, these locally grown programs were created and operate independently.
Join The Effort
Does the above description sound familiar? Are you a broadband adoption practitioner? We at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance are gathering broadband adoption practitioners, advocates, and supporters.
Spreading the Word
A version of this article was posted to Connect Ohio as a guest blog.
Access Humboldt press release referencing this blog post.
The State of Utah Broadband Outreach Center promoting this blog post.
This article was posted to Connect Michigan as a guest blog.