NDIA was originally created to educate policymakers as to the experience and expertise of local digital inclusion programs around the country. In fact, we knew we need to educate policymakers to the very existence of local digital inclusion organizations and digital inclusion programs in community-based organizations, libraries, local governments and other anchor institutions.

On February 27 and 28, in partnership with the Benton Foundation, three digital inclusion practitioners whose organizations have been profiled on Benton.org as Innovators, joined me for a round of meetings in DC.

Amina Fazlullah, NDIA’s Policy Advisor and a Mozilla Tech Policy Fellow, made arrangements for four visits to senate offices and two visits to FCC commissioner offices, in addition to a meeting with Mozilla Tech Policy Fellows and an update on potential infrastructure legislation from SHLB Coalition’s John Windhausen. Thanks to Susan Corbett, we also met with Senator Angus King.

We discussed the misunderstanding that there is only one digital divide that needs to be bridged. Not only must we ensure high speed broadband infrastructure is available to every home but the broadband service must be affordable and we need to ensure access to appropriate devices, digital literacy training and tech support. As technology keeps changing, additional digital divides will develop.

Each of the practitioners explained the digital inclusion work of their organizations and how that work is impacted by current federal policies. We discussed the definition of digital inclusion, why local digital inclusion programs vary (lack of federal funding) and the necessity of trust in digital inclusion programs.  Both Axiom and Connecting For Good explained how they would have been ideal candidates for the Lifeline Broadband Provider designation that the current FCC has removed and the barriers to participating as a Lifeline provider. An explanation of NDIA’s position on this issue is in our recent comments to the FCC.

The entire trip was educational for all – the policymakers, the practitioners and myself. NDIA appreciates the support of Benton Foundation and Amina Fazlullah for making it all happen.