Bipartisan Package Will Provide Critical First Step Toward Ensuring Affordable, Reliable Broadband and Digital Skills for Every American
Connect Americans Now (CAN) applauds the bipartisan steps taken thus far in Congress to move the bipartisan infrastructure package forward to provide a critical first step to bring affordable, reliable broadband and digital skills to every American — regardless of zip code.
As many as 42 million Americans still lack broadband access. The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act contained $65 billion to support broadband deployment, adoption and skills training programs. While much more will need to be done to permanently close the broadband gap in all communities, this bill is an essential first step to support deployment, affordability and digital skills training.
Here are some of the areas the bipartisan infrastructure package will positively impact Americans stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide:
Broadband Deployment & Access
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act would dedicate $42 billion to fund state grants for broadband deployment to be administered by The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In addition, the package would provide $2 billion in additional funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) program that provides loans and grants for broadband deployment in rural areas. An additional $2 billion will go toward supporting the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program which supports deployment initiatives on tribal lands.
These significant investments will help deliver the physical infrastructure required to expand connectivity in currently unserved communities.
Expanded broadband deployment will allow more Americans to improve their healthcare using telehealth tools, succeed in the increasingly technology-driven classroom, take advantage of modern precision agriculture tools and unlock the full potential of the 21st century digital economy.
Broadband Adoption & Equity
The broadband gap disproportionately impacts communities of color. 35 percent of Latino adults and 29 percent of African American adults lack a broadband connection at home. A report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that Black Americans living in rural communities in the south are less likely to have broadband connectivity than other Americans. According to the report, 38 percent of African Americans in rural, southern communities do not have home internet, compared to the 23 percent of white Americans in similar regions. Additionally, studies show that students without home access to broadband internet are less likely to plan to attend college, face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling and score lower on standardized tests.
With $14 billion in the infrastructure bill aimed at helping income-insecure Americans — particularly those in communities of color — pay for service, Congress can make meaningful progress in creating a more equitable society where every American can unlock the full potential of digital technology.
The package includes $14 billion to make permanent a successful pandemic-era emergency program to provide a monthly benefit to help income-insecure Americans pay for internet and $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act, which will help states to create plans to foster equal access to the internet for historically underserved communities and fund projects that increase broadband accessibility and digital skills.
Digital Skills & Training
Included in the $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act is critical funding to support expanded digital skills training for Americans.
Nearly one-third of Americans aged 16 to 64 have no or very limited digital skills. This negatively impacts American companies who rely on a skilled workforce to remain competitive and succeed and hurts communities that face persistent income inequality and a lack of upward mobility and opportunity. This also holds back the full promise of American enterprise by limiting development of a skilled workforce.
By directing funds to improve digital skills training for Americans — including digital literacy for seniors through the Digital Equity Act — this legislation will make success more attainable for those who are looking to qualify for a job that requires greater digital skills knowledge or for students looking to enter the workforce.
Read CAN’s latest statement on the bipartisan infrastructure bill HERE.
Learn more about solutions to permanently close the broadband gap HERE.
Read more on CAN and our mission HERE.