Dashown joined the navy fresh out of high school where he became an electrician. When he came back home to Cleveland he worked for a steel company. A few years later the steel company filed for bankruptcy. Dashown and many others were laid off. Dashown then took computer classes with Connect Your Community at Ashbury Community Services. He learned digital literacy skills including how to search for a job online. He applied multiple places. One of them called him the day after he submitted his application and a month later he was working full-time. Wanda Davis, Executive Director of Ashbury Senior Community Computer Center, says “Dashown’s story is not unique. We started out serving the seniors in our neighborhood but the need was so great for public Internet access, digital literacy training and low-cost home broadband that we had to expand our services. Modernizing the Lifeline Program will help my neighbors with much needed low-cost broadband options.” Dashown’s story is first in this video.
We, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, commend the FCC’s proposal to modernize the Lifeline Program. Increasing broadband access and use benefits both the individual and society as a whole. The more of us using telehealth services in our homes, online banking, online higher education and online government services, the more we will see related costs go down.
The evidence is clear. To successfully increase broadband use in the U.S. we must have low-cost options, public access locations 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.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance represents leaders of local community organizations, public libraries, towns and other institutions that are working hard to reduce digital disparities among our neighbors. We have been providing technology training and access for decades. As the organizations on the front lines of increasing broadband adoption, we can definitively say free and low-cost broadband options are critical tools in our efforts to increase digital equality in the United States. We are looking forward to engaging in the reform and modernization of Lifeline creating an important resource to strengthen the broadband options for vulnerable residents by addressing the broadband adoption barrier of cost.