Leaders in Agriculture, Business, Education, Health Care, Technology and More Agree: Congress Must Pass Permanent Solutions to Close Digital Divide
A diverse array of leaders from around the nation have called for urgent action to permanently close the broadband gap in America in recent weeks. Voices in agriculture, business, education, health care, technology and more have published op-eds and conducted interviews urging Congress to act— both by swiftly passing the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and advancing additional, permanent solutions to support broadband deployment, adoption and digital skilling.
Americans agree that lawmakers must capitalize on the positive momentum for action to close the broadband gap and support digital equity in every community — regardless of zip code.
Read what leaders from around the nation are saying:
Kyle Zebley, vice president for public policy, American Telemedicine Association:
“For millions of Americans, telehealth and digital health care tools are out of reach because they lack broadband access, the budget to purchase service, the tools to connect and the training to use digital devices — all critical to realizing the full potential of virtual medicine… As telehealth tools become more essential, the need for broadband has grown. Even in a city like Pittsburgh, there are too many people still without access to quality internet. Often, it’s not because there isn’t physical broadband infrastructure, but because of limitations in affordability and a lack of digital skills to properly utilize broadband-enabled devices. We need significant investments for adoption and digital skills programs that will ensure everyone is able to afford broadband service and realize the potential of technology-driven solutions such as telehealth.” (Broadband Connectivity Is Vital For Health In The 21st Century, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/4/21)
Betsy Huber, president, National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry:
“To secure a future of prosperity for America’s rural communities, we need to completely bridge the digital divide and ensure every American has access to the digital technologies that support success in our modern world… The National Grange commends the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that resulted in substantial positive investments to expand broadband connectivity being included in the bipartisan infrastructure package and advanced out of the Senate. Now, House lawmakers cannot delay in passing the urgently needed package… The broadband investments included in the bipartisan infrastructure package and additional permanent solutions are urgently needed.” (Waiting On The U.S. House To Bridge The Digital Divide, MinnPost, 9/29/21)
Sindy M. Benavides, chief executive officer, League of United Latin American Citizens:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that access to the internet can no longer be viewed as a privilege. At the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the country’s oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, we believe everyone in our community, and the millions of other individuals who struggle to get online, should have long-term access to high-speed internet service at an affordable price.” (The Infrastructure Bill Will Improve Digital Equity For Latinos, Newsweek, 9/29/21)
Gioia Goodrum, 2021 board chair, Oregon State Chamber of Commerce:
“A reliable connection touches every aspect of life and all corners of our state’s business landscape. Connection can be the difference between being successful or falling behind for so many workers and employers. Oregon will not be able to meet its full potential unless lawmakers prioritize eliminating the digital divide for every Oregon community… [W]e need lawmakers to commit to permanent solutions that will address the fundamentals of broadband connectivity — deployment, adoption and digital skills programs. Leaders in the House can show Oregonians this commitment to our future by voting for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” (The Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act Can Help Close The Digital Divide, The Register-Guard, 9/21/21)
Doug Busselman, executive vice president, Nevada Farm Bureau Federation:
“Broadband internet access on farms and ranches means those who work the land can produce more goods with less work, leading to increased supply and lower prices for the average consumer… The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be a consequential step toward universal nationwide broadband access, but there will still be much further to go to fully close the digital divide… Lawmakers can build on the positive momentum of the bipartisan infrastructure bill by providing additional, subsequent resources in a budget spending package to restore the full subsidy that will help every American have access to affordable broadband… We’re counting on our leaders in Washington to deliver.” (Nevadans Are Counting On Infrastructure Broadband Boost, Las Vegas Sun, 9/11/21)
Brad Smith, president, Microsoft Corporation
“One thing that COVID-19 did is caused us all to see something that was in front of our eyes to which we weren’t paying enough attention. And that’s the broadband divide… That’s why we’ve been banging this drum for several years, saying, look, broadband is the electricity of the 21st century, and the people who don’t have it are basically living in the 1990s… The good news, in my opinion, is we are awakened as a society… we’re seeing major commitments by the administration and Congress, including in the infrastructure bill, to take the kinds of steps that will be needed to close this gap… We have the wherewithal as a country to solve this problem in the next four years… I would almost say shame on us if we fail.” (Microsoft President: ‘Shame On Us If We Fail’ To Provide Broadband Internet To More Americans, Yahoo Finance, 9/10/21)
Sal Khan, founder, founder and CEO, Khan Academy:
“If there’s one silver lining of the pandemic, it’s that there’s more attention on this issue of the digital divide and sometimes we call the homework gap now, which is essentially the digital divide at home, who actually has the technology at home, and this has been an issue pre-pandemic…The good thing is there’s 60 something billion plus in this infrastructure package to try to close the digital divide.” (Squawk Box Twitter, CNBC, 8/31/21)
John Milligan, former president, Greater Norristown Chapter of the NAACP:
“For as long as Americans have been logging on to the internet, Black and brown communities have been less likely than our white neighbors to have a broadband connection at home. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill offers the best chance we’ve ever had to finally extinguish this digital divide. The Senate bill passed with a wide, bipartisan majority earlier this month commits $65 billion to achieve the goal of universal broadband connectivity. This includes more than $40 billion to bring high-speed networks to unconnected rural areas, low-income apartment buildings, schools, libraries, and health centers. And it also includes $14 billion to create an Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which will give low-income families up to $30 a month to buy home broadband.” (A Bipartisan Broadband Victory For Communities Of Color, The Philadelphia Tribune, 10/5/21)
Joel Thayer, president, Digital Progress Institute:
“The $1 trillion package [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] allocates $65 billion for broadband initiatives and specifically carves out additional funding to make the Emergency Broadband Benefit permanent. That’s one reason to cheer. But the good news doesn’t stop there. The bill allocates an additional $250 million per year to promote digital inclusion and broadband adoption. Such programs are important because broadband adoption by households making less than $30,000 per year is significantly lower than their more affluent counterparts. Lack of affordable broadband and lack of digital literacy are two of the top factors impacting high-speed adoption rates. In other words, the Emergency Broadband Benefit and the bill’s digital literacy funding work hand in hand, making broadband affordable and accessible to working families.” (Affordable Broadband For Underserved Communities Is Now A National Priority, Newsweek, 9/29/21)
Taylor Patterson, executive director, Native Voters Alliance-Nevada:
“We can’t go back to the days when internet access was defined by where you live or what you earned. If these issues go unaddressed, the already significant gap between those with internet access and those without will continue to widen…We are in the final stage of addressing an issue that has held back millions of Americans for far too long. We finally have a chance to close the digital divide and build back better for everyone. But it will only happen if our elected representatives in the House understand not only the impact of broadband inequity, but the urgency of it, and pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act so we can get every American connected now.” (Broadband Has Become An Essential Need For Everyone, Las Vegas Sun, 9/23/21)
Read more on how the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will improve broadband connectivity and digital equity HERE.
Read more about the digital divide and solutions to permanently close the broadband gap HERE.