By Rosa Mendoza, President and CEO, ALLvanza

The past year has made it clear that a quality internet connection is essential for everything from education to health care. It is also clear that too many Americans, including millions of children, are being left behind. Ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to broadband is a goal with broad bipartisan support. The need is urgent, and the infrastructure package now being negotiated in Congress is the perfect opportunity to close the digital divide.

At the height of the pandemic last year, an estimated 15 to 16 million students, or about 30% of all public-school students, lived without either a home broadband connection, a suitable device for distance learning, or both. Pew Research recently reported that 20 percent of white adults lack broadband at home, a number that climbs to 29 percent for Black adults and 35 percent for Latino adults.

A crucial part of a permanent solution is funding access for low-income households, many of which have had problems paying for internet service during the pandemic. Temporary support for those families is essential, but it is not enough. We need to move toward permanent solutions that enable the broadest possible participation of low-income households as well as providers.

Universal, affordable access to broadband is essential infrastructure in the 21st Century. It is time to close the gap that keeps some Americans from participating fully in our connected society and to ensure that all Americans share in the opportunities that broadband provides.

In recent weeks, legislators from both parties have assured ALLvanza that they share our commitment to closing the digital divide. However, news reports mention that the broadband conversation has become a sticking point in bipartisan infrastructure negotiations.

Members of Congress, this is the time. There is no excuse for allowing partisan considerations to prevent us from moving forward with a permanent solution. Dig in, work together, and make it happen. Americans deserve no less.