In the past couple of years, the Federal Communications Commission became a federal agency that discussed and addressed digital inclusion. Lifeline was expanded to include broadband and the FCC released Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion.
The new FCC chair, Ajit Pai has a Digital Empowerment Agenda. He has also stated repeatedly that he intends to work on closing the digital divide. We whole heartedly welcome Chairman Pai into the field of digital inclusion.
Chairman Pai’s Digital Empowerment Agenda focuses on infrastructure and uses the term “digital divide, giving the false impression that there is only one divide to be closed. As technology keeps changing, the digital equity goal posts keep moving. I do mean plural “posts”. Digital equity has multiple barriers that must be strategically addressed. We must increase access to affordable quality home internet service, access to affordable devices, public computing centers, digital literacy training and technology support.
I discussed the situation with a reporter from Gizmodo. Here is the article. The article accurately reflects NDIA’s position. In short, we are happy for the attention on digital equity issues but encourage the FCC to address internet service cost and digital literacy – two barriers beyond infrastructure.
We encourage Chairman Pai to work toward digital equity, with us. He can do so by helping increase internet service provider participation as Lifeline broadband providers, speed up the development of the Lifeline National Verifier and make use of the FCC’s ability to direct attention to the complexity of digital inclusion, facilitating discussion among stakeholders.