As we gear up for back to school time, the team at Code Nation continues to advocate for Internet access for all. 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed Internet connection at home, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. This aspect of the digital divide disproportionately impacts students of color and low-income families, especially in rural and urban communities.
Broadband Access Initiatives: What’s Working
There are programs at the federal, state, and local levels that are working to expand access to broadband for all families.
For example, ConnectHomeUSA began in 2015 as a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other organizations. Its goal is to narrow the digital divide for families with school-age children in HUD-assisted housing.
Another example is The Red Hook Initiative. This is a community-based youth development organization that works to bring free wifi to the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY by creating access points and hotspots for the community to use.
At the federal level, we’re seeing momentum for massive investments in Internet for All through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The bill provides funding for underserved areas as well as aims to make the services more affordable.
Recommendations for Internet Access for All
We recently issued recommendations to improve Internet access for the communities and families who need it the most:
- Encourage the U.S. Congress to invest in infrastructure grants and technical assistance to municipalities to build open broadband networks. This is long overdue, but providing federal dollars and guidance for communities can provide much-needed coverage for the country.
- Increase the FCC definition of minimum broadband speeds to 100 Mbps download speeds and 10mbps upload speeds. The way we use the Internet has evolved, especially in the last decade. For example, many families with a basic Internet plan are not able to stream multiple Zoom classes accompanied by regular Internet usage successfully without major buffering. It’s time for the FCC to adjust to the needs of consumers and students.
- Require all Internet service providers to include high speed packages at an affordable price for low income families and predicate eligibility for a reduced monthly payment based on those who qualify for SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, or other assistance programs.
- Push for states and localities to allow for the development of community-owned broadband networks, which are known to be more affordable for residents. Currently, 19 states ban, block, or burden the ability of localities to develop open networks. Communities deserve an alternative service to Internet service providers that charge high prices.
Read more about Internet for All and other critical issues that impact the digital divide in our policy brief: Disrupt the Digital Divide: Improving Access for all K-12 Students.