“The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), representing community-based Internet training and access programs in 21 states and 23 metropolitan areas across the U.S., welcomes today’s announcement by Chairman Wheeler of the Federal Communications Commission regarding modernization of the Lifeline program to include broadband Internet services.
“As recently as 2013, one in five Americans still had no home access to Internet service of any kind. Census data from that year shows that the nation’s persistent digital divide is heavily concentrated among lower-income households, for whom the cost of commercial Internet service remains a significant obstacle. Millions of our poorer, older and less educated neighbors are increasingly isolated — from job opportunities, education, 21st century health care, civic and community activities, and social support — because they lack mainstream digital access and skills.
“The Lifeline program was created decades ago to address a similar problem of isolation in a world dependent on voice telephony. That world has fundamentally changed in the era of broadband Internet. To serve its historic purpose, the Lifeline program must change as well.
“We thank the Chairman for taking today’s step toward a 21st century Lifeline program. NDIA’s members are committed to constructive participation in the Proposed Rulemaking process, and we look forward to a resolution that will truly help reduce the digital divide in our communities and the nation.”
Statement issued today by Angela Siefer, Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
The following statements are from NDIA members regarding the value that a broadband subsidy will provide to the communities they serve.
“Connect Your Community is a collaborative of organizations in Greater Cleveland and Detroit working to close the large, persistent digital divide in our cities through grassroots training, affordable access and support initiatives. According to 2013 Census data, more than a third of all households in Cleveland and Detroit still have no home Internet access of any kind — not even mobile or dialup. Most are low-income; for households with incomes below $20,000 the “disconnected” percentage is above 50%. This is a huge obstacle not just for the households themselves, but for our government, healthcare, education, banking, human services and civic-sector institutions who need to engage online with all our neighbors.”
Bill Callahan, Director of Connect Your Community
“Seeds of Literacy is an adult literacy program providing basic education and GED preparation free of charge to people in greater Cleveland. Because the GED examination is now offered only by computer, our students must be comfortable with online operations to take it successfully. Since the majority of our students are low-income — in a city where more than half of low-income households have no home Internet access — digital illiteracy and the cost of broadband are often significant barriers to their success. An opportunity for truly affordable high-speed Internet access through the Lifeline program could go a long way toward removing those barriers.”
Daniel McLaughlin, Program Officer of Seeds of Literacy
“As an elected Member of Cleveland City Council, I represent some 25,000 residents in the City of Cleveland, the majority of whom live in households with incomes well below the national median. Recent Census and FCC data suggest that up to half of my constituents still lack home internet access. This is a serious barrier to our community’s economic and educational progress and it isolates many of our poorer citizens from day-to-day civic and community activities, which increasingly depend on online communication. For the last two years I’ve supported a community technology training center and other digital inclusion initiatives, but the cost of home broadband remains a major problem for participants. A truly affordable broadband option added to the Lifeline program could make a very big difference for the people I represent.”
Brian Cummins, City Council Member of City of Cleveland
“From our experience, two of the main reasons people lack home access are the prohibitively high costs and a lack of understanding about how the internet can help them save money and improve their access to opportunities. In order to address these barriers, Tech Goes Home works with schools and community organizations to connect underserved populations with free digital literacy training, as well as low cost home internet access and discounted computers. Digital citizenship to us is a three-legged stool, consisting of skills, internet access, and hardware, and without any one of the legs, the stool would fall. A modernized Lifeline program is critical to bridging the opportunity gap.”
Theodora Higginson, Co-Director of Tech Goes Home
“Austin Free-Net (AFN) focuses on digital literacy and broadband adoption through partnering with 3 types of organizations: 1. An equipment provider; 2. An Internet provider; and 3. A training provider. AFN provides the training component; we offer a customized training program for each client. This methodology has generated much success and amazing outcomes. A national broadband subsidy through the Lifeline Program would support local efforts working toward broadband adoption for all Americans.”
Juantia Budd, Executive Director of Austin Free-Net
“Since 2004, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) has been harnessing the power of technology to change the way we age. The modernization of the Lifeline Program would strengthen our programs empowering older adults to live successful, independent more connected lives.”
Thomas Kamber, Executive Director of OATS
“In Minnesota, our survey results show that low income and senior residents adopt broadband at a rate 20 percent below the state adoption rate (59% v. 79%). The top two reasons provided for not adopting are relevance and cost. Updating Lifeline rules will provide a critical tool for shrinking this gap.”
Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director of the Office of Broadband Development, State of Minnesota
“Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center (ASC³), a 501c-3 non-profit grassroots organization, established in October of 2002, is proud to be an empowering technology resource center in greater Cleveland. Our mission is to bridge the gap in the “Digital Divide” thus fostering a movement of “Digital Inclusion” in our inner-city communities by providing high quality, accessible, and free technology classes in a supportive, appropriately-paced, and nurturing environment. The modernization of the Lifeline Program is essential to our community’s growth and will enhance the quality of life for all our community members.”
Wanda Davis, Executive Director of Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center
“Silicon Harlem supports lifeline legislation for broadband. We represent communities of color, Senior Citizens, and low-income families and access via lifeline facilitates improving their quality of life.”
Clayton Banks, Executive Director of Silicon Harlem
“For over 15 years WinstonNet has been working with low income and disconnected residents in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, NC by providing dozens of public computer centers, free WiFi hotspots, digital literacy training and affordable home computers. Upgrading the Lifeline Program into the 21st Century would strengthen our programs and positively affect thousands of children, adults and seniors in our community by providing an affordable solution to access online services — education, healthcare, jobs, banking and much more.”
Lynda Goff, Executive Director of WinstonNet
“Access Humboldt seeks universal access to open networks for local communities in Humboldt County on the Redwood Coast of California, working to inform public policy deliberations, convening local discussions of regulatory policies, and articulating principles for Localism and Diversity. We support timely reform of the Lifeline program to secure connectivity for those who cannot afford service in a manner that supports digital inclusion, training and community empowerment to meet our human potentials, securing independence for all.”
Sean McLaughlin, Executive Director of Access Humboldt
“70% of the kids who attend the Kansas City School District do not have internet access at home. Children without Internet access in the evening will be increasingly disadvantaged in the classroom. Without home access to the internet many pupils will struggle to complete their homework and miss out on online resources to support their learning. This digital divide will have a truly damaging impact on children’s prospects and causing the most disadvantaged to fall further behind. The Kansas City Public Library looks forward to a national broadband subsidy for low-income households.”
Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, Deputy Director of Kansas City Public Library
“Through our nationwide Education Broadband Service license Mobile Beacon is able to offer low income families affordable broadband service for $10 for unlimited data per month. However, our reach and coverage area does not nearly meet the ever-growing digital gaps throughout the nation. The modernization of the Lifeline Program would help establish uniform broadband access and adoption — a much needed solution to the patchwork of offerings that can often confuse eligible families and individuals.”
Alisson Walsh, Community Outreach Manager of Mobile Beacon
“Connecting for Good is a nonprofit organization that has been bridging the Digital Divide since 2011 using wireless Internet, community technology centers, low cost refurbished PCs and free REGIONAL 8 digital life skills classes. In the past two years we have helped over 3,000 low income people in Kansas City get online, the majority live in public housing. In the Kansas City Public Schools, which has a high low income and minority student population, 70% of children do not have Internet connections at home. This puts them at a serious academic disadvantage. Without the ability to get online these families also lack access to valuable resources that lead to better quality of life that contribute to better health, social services and upward mobility through increased employment and training opportunities. We believe that in our digital society, connectivity equals opportunity. For this reason we support LifeLine reform that leads to increasing broadband adoption for low income families.”
Michael Liimatta, President and CEO of Connecting for Good
Community Technology Network supports the FCC’s effort to update the Lifeline program to include access to high speed Internet. Our low-income learners are struggling financially and access to the internet is essential to getting and staying out of poverty, completing school assignments, and ending isolation for many seniors. Access to the internet alone will not solve the problem. Having a web enabled device appropriate to an individual’s needs and skills training are essential. The challenge of helping people gain digital skills should not be underestimated since without those they don’t understand why the internet is important or how to use it safely to meet their needs.
Kami Griffiths, Executive Director of Community Technology Network
JumpWireless.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the digital divide by providing the Boundless Opportunities of high-speed, affordable Internet services and free technology education. Internet access is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. JumpWireless.org works diligently in our communities to raise awareness about the necessity of the Internet, the importance of building technical knowledge, and the value of workforce development skills that encourage and build life-sustaining careers. Lifeline reform would support our mission and our goals to provide an even playing field for all citizens, which will help build our workforce, institutions, and communities for years to come.
Kelly Anzulavich, Director of Program Relations & Marketing of JumpWireless.org
“It is incumbent upon government at all levels to assure access to online public services. With ever greater number of government services being only available to those with connections, and where those e-gov applications require more than a smart phone to interact with, the only answer public agencies have to those without access is to “go to the library”. A wholly inadequate response from a public sector which is reducing costs through automation on the backs of the unconnected. Access, may not quite be a human right, but it most certainly is a basic service which everyone has a right to at an affordable price. The Lifeline Program provides the cornerstone to fulfill this obligation. The Gigabit Libraries Network is supportive of the modernization of Lifeline to include a broadband subsidy.”
Don Means, Coordinator of Gigabit Libraries Network
“Digi-Bridge aims to equip educational institutions and the communities they serve with the necessary resources and support to teach 21st century learners the fundamentals of technology and beyond. The educational achievement gap in our country will only continue to widen if we don’t address the technological needs of the communities being served by our learning institutions. Reform of the Lifeline Program will support Digi-Bridge’s efforts to eradicate the digital divide, as costs associated with connectivity have continued to serve as a real barrier to access.”
David Jessup, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Digi-Bridge
“The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), whose mission is focused on preserving minority ownership and closing the digital divide, applauds today’s actions by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to modernize the Lifeline program to support broadband access for low-income Americans. “Americans are increasingly relying on broadband to access education, jobs, healthcare, and other essential services, but a disproportionate number of minorities and economically vulnerable consumers rely on their smartphones to access these services. Closing the digital divide and getting everyone connected is critical. Chairman Wheeler’s actions today reflect the Commission’s dedication to moving our nation toward an environment where everyone is guaranteed the opportunity to connect.”
Kim M. Keenan, President and CEO of Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)
“Created by the DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), Connect.DC works to remove barriers to Internet access and increase technology use in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the District of Columbia. Connect.DC empowers communities through technology by focusing on five key areas: digital literacy, pubic technology access, affordable home Internet and computers, relevant programs and content, and public awareness. A national broadband subsidy through the Lifeline Program would support local efforts to bridge the digital divide in DC for the 160,000 residents who currently lack home Internet service.”
Delano Squires, Director of Connect.DC
“Our mission at Technology For All is to empower low-income and under-served persons and their communities through the tools of technology. We do our best to help our clients gain the skills and tools they need to participate fully in today’s digital world. But, often a barrier to full participation is an affordable broadband connection at home. A Lifeline broadband subsidy for low-income households will open huge doors of opportunity for many of the clients we serve.”
Will Reed, Executive Director of Technology For All
“The Axiom Education & Training Center offers a digital literacy program to residents and businesses. Digital literacy training plays a critical role in workforce development and addressing local business development needs and skill inadequacies. The need for improved digital literacy skills heightens as companies seek to grow, increase workflow efficiencies, and compete in changing industry. Digital literacy has been shown to be a catalyst for employer engagement and is a path to additional conversations about educational and skills training. A national broadband subsidy through the Lifeline Program would support digital literacy skills for local workforce development efforts.”
Susan Corbett, CEO of Axiom Technologies
“E2D, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit enterprise is focused on eliminating the digital divide for students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, which currently serves 145,000 students, 54% of whom do not have reliable access to digital technology at home. We believe that an update and expansion of the Lifeline program is critically important to our citizens and applaud FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to bring the Lifeline program up to date in our increasingly online world. This affordable access is critical as our students become the educated digital workforce that will ignite future productivity and job growth in North Carolina.”
Pat Millen, President of E2D, Inc.
“Project Appleseed supports the renewal of FCC’s Lifeline program. Nearly 50% of families with students in struggling and failing school communities here in St. Louis – including Ferguson – don’t have high-speed broadband access at home. These are some of the poorest families in the most challenging schools. The digital divide is about more than owning smart phones. Those who are not connected are digital have-nots, with limited access to knowledge and economic leverage. These families have low parental involvement rates with very limited access to information about schools, students’ behavior, attendance, progress and performance. Children cannot access the tools they need to learn and compete from home. The Lifeline program can increase parent involvement in poor communities nationwide and raise student achievement.”
Kevin Walker, President & National Director of Project Appleseed
“Focus:HOPE is a civil and human rights organization, working to bridge the racial divide in Detroit and southeast Michigan through our food program, career training programs, and comprehensive community change initiative (the HOPE Village Initiative). Between 2010 and 2013 our BTOP-supported Connect Your Community program helped over five thousand households gain desperately needed access to broadband. But according to the Census, four out of ten Detroit homes still lacked any kind of Internet access in 2013… and we know from experience that the cost of broadband service remains the key barrier. A truly affordable broadband Internet option through the Lifeline program could make a critical difference in our neighbors’ chances for employment, education, better health care and the other building blocks of family self-sufficiency.”
Deborah Fisher, Director of the HOPE Village Initiative at Focus:HOPE
“The Community Telecommunications Network is a non-profit organization representing K-12, Higher Education and Public Television in Southeast Michigan. Our mission is to improve the quality of life and much of our focus is on education. Our largest project has worked to get broadband into the homes of low-income households for which numerous barricades exist. One of those hurdles is the cost of home broadband access. According to Pew Research, low-income homes with children are four times more likely to be without broadband than their middle or upper-income counterparts. This is the “homework gap” which needs to be resolved to give these children a better chance to learn and compete in the modern world. Reducing the cost of access is one important step necessary to address this problem.”
Patrick J. Gossman, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Community Telecommunications Network
“Mobile Citizen’s mission is social equity through access. We believe that making high-quality, mobile Internet available at an affordable price contributes to an engaged public and ultimately a more equitable democracy. A national broadband subsidy through the Lifeline Program would benefit many Americans who may otherwise be trapped in the digital divide in the U.S.”
Cassie Bair, Managing Director of Mobile Citizen