The health crisis has drawn quick attention to the lack of home broadband access in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, 18 million U.S. households do not have an internet subscription of any kind (including mobile). Congress is attempting to address this connectivity problem in the Coronavirus Stimulus Bill. We fully agree the federal government must address the lack of home internet subscriptions in addition to the lack of home computers/tablets and technical support available via phone.
NDIA cautions that a massive federal program to provide hotspots is only one solution. In this time of crisis, we need all solutions on the table. Two reasons:
- NDIA is hearing from our affiliates that there is currently a shortage of hotspot devices. Across the globe, schools are purchasing them for students and companies are purchasing them for employees. Most hotspot devices are manufactured in China.
- Mobile service is less reliable than wireline service. The two lowest cost mobile service providers in the U.S. have spotty service (thus their lower price point). To make the dollars stretch the furthest, the lowest monthly costs will be a prime consideration.
What are alternative solutions?
- A significant Lifeline broadband benefit separate from the current Lifeline service, designed primarily to support phone service.
- Financial support for community-based emergency efforts to help unconnected households find and makes use of the affordable internet access options available to them. These funds would need to go to local organizations who are already trusted by households who are not connected. Unconnected households tend to be low-income and/or older adults.