PolicyAdvocate for local, state and federal policies to promote digital equity and support local digital inclusion strategies
Presidential Candidates’ Digital Inclusion Platforms
Digital inclusion is not a partisan issue and we can only succeed in making the investments and policy changes that we need by having broad political support for our work. NDIA has provided guidance in the creation of the presidential candidate’s broadband/internet platforms.
Federal Funding for Digital Inclusion
Digital Inclusion efforts are happening locally all over the country. For these programs to grow and succeed, it is essential to build federal support and provide federal funding. NDIA has worked to fill this gap by:
- Working with U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s office to create and promote the Digital Equity Act. NDIA developed and maintains the website promoting the Digital Equity Act.
Community Reinvestment Act
As banks move more of their customer services online, often reducing brick-and-mortar branch access as a result, millions of consumers who lack digital access and skills are at risk of becoming “unbanked”. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which uses regulatory carrots as well as sticks to enforce banks’ obligation to serve the credit needs of low and moderate income communities, has not caught up with this growing problem.
- NDIA twice submitted public comments to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, in 2018 and again in 2020, asking that regulated banks be allowed to seek CRA credit for their financial support of community digital inclusion programs serving low and moderate-income households in their lending areas.
Federal Lifeline Program
Since 2016 the Federal Lifeline program has provided subsidized phone and broadband access for low-income Americans. “Lifeline broadband” could be an important digital inclusion tool, but its effectiveness has been limited by recent FCC rule changes as well as funding constraints.
- NDIA strongly supported the creation of “Lifeline broadband”, submitting detailed public comments and encouraging affiliates and allies to participate in the FCC proceedings on the issue.
- NDIA has filed formal comments and assisted our affiliates to file comments with the current FCC, strongly opposing a series of policy changes since 2017 which undermined Lifeline broadband’s growth and potential value to consumers.
The price of commercial home broadband service is among the most significant barriers to internet adoption — especially for lower income consumers, who are far less likely to have home internet subscriptions than their middle- and upper-income neighbors (including in under-connected rural areas). Making home broadband more affordable in general, and creating or preserving very affordable options for low-income households, are key policy goals for NDIA.
- NDIA urged the FCC to consider broadband adoption rates and affordability in the agency’s annual assessment of “whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion”
- NDIA submitted comments to the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), urging the agency to treat affordability for lower-income rural residents as a key factor in implementing a new rural broadband financing program
- NDIA called for continuing “EBS” (Educational Broadband Spectrum) license allocations for educational institutions in a 2018 FCC proceeding on the subject, based on the success of EBS-based initiatives in providing very low-cost 4G internet accounts for low-income and rural households
- NDIA called out AT&T for designing its Access low-income discount internet program in a way that excluded thousands of potential users simply because of the company’s slow speeds… and got AT&T to change its policy!
Local government policy: Smart Communities and 5G
Local governments across the U.S. are involved in “Smart Community” initiatives, aimed at using networked technologies and data to transform city service delivery, transportation, economic development, governance and civic participation. ISPs have often attempted to associate Smart Community initiatives with aggressive marketing of their 5G wireless networks, including their concerted efforts (aided by the FCC) to persuade or force municipal governments to give up the power to negotiate terms for the providers’ use of public rights of way and public assets, in order to compete in “the race to 5G.” Many cities have pushed back, and some have held out for 5G deployment deals that generate new resources supporting digital inclusion programs.
- NDIA is engaged in ongoing efforts to educate local government officials and smart community leaders about the critical need, and opportunity, to include digital inclusion as a strategic goal of smart community initiatives. NDIA has two white papers on this topic, available here and here.
- NDIA joined with Public Knowledge and the Communications Workers of America in a “friend of the court” brief, supporting a legal effort by a coalition of cities to overturn an FCC order that would preempt their right to negotiate terms for the commercial use of local public rights of way and assets to deploy 5G networks.