Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a statement regarding its draft annual broadband deployment report and, upon first review, the connectivity numbers look very promising. Almost two decades have passed since we began using the term Digital Divide to describe the disparity in connectivity, and thereby opportunity for success, in our Internet-based global society. If these numbers are correct, and we hope they are, it means that significant progress has been made throughout the years to create a favorable environment for investment and broadband deployment and we will be the first to give credit to all policymakers and companies involved in narrowing the Digital Divide. And that is the progress.
Now is the time to take that momentum forward in two key ways. First, we must keep the momentum going and connect every household in the U.S. Though this report marks significant progress, it also acknowledges, along with Chairman Pai, that there are still approximately 20 million people in the U.S. without broadband access. So we must continue to support modern, smart policies that protect consumers equally, and ensure equal access, as well as maintain a favorable environment for investment and deployment. Organizations like ALLvanza spend time working with policymakers and other key stakeholders to ensure that the needs of underserved communities are taken into account and that deployment of broadband be done in a fair and equitable way, not just to those with disposable income who can afford premium services.
Secondly, now is the time to address the knowledge gap in how to leverage broadband connectivity to the fullest extent and take advantage of all the opportunities made possible through broadband access. Broadband and associated technology are foundational to every activity in our lives ranging from the most mundane (checking the weather or your favorite team’s box score) to the most important such as submitting a college or job application, working or running a business from home, accessing medical or educational resources, or communicating with family over long distances. Without adequate knowledge of how to fully utilize a broadband connection and associated technology, there is a distinct possibility that the impact of broadband access could be reduced to more quickly rendering a funny video online. ALLvanza’s goal is to ensure that underserved communities not only get the broadband connection, that should be considered a necessity for every household in 2019, but also have the knowledge and inspiration to turn that access into personal and professional success. And we will continue to work every day to achieve this goal.
So while we are encouraged by the progress that this report seems to indicate, we have to keep working to carry this momentum forward. By the numbers, we have made it through the first quarter of closing the digital divide and can’t afford to stop and admire the view; the majority of the game is yet to be played. And what remains are two things. First, we need to further examine the details of the report. Connectivity numbers drop significantly among certain demographics, for example, Latinxs, older and rural residents, and those with less education and/or household income. If the progress we are seeing is not equally distributed across racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, sexual orientation and other demographics it is not genuine progress but a continuation, and possible exacerbation, of the digital divide. Secondly, we need to continue the fight to equitably close the digital divide and continue to educate everyone living in the U.S., and especially members of underserved communities, about how to take full advantage of the many opportunities made available by broadband connectivity and associated technology.