In his State of the Union Address, President Obama affirmed his intent “to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks.” As part of this goal, on March 23, 2015, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum establishing the Broadband Opportunity Council. The Council, co-chaired by the secretaries of commerce and agriculture, is comprised of 25 other federal agencies and entities. The goal of the Council is to eventually produce a report to the President with recommendations to support the deployment and adoption of Internet. As part of this goal, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, issued a request for comment to collect suggestions. The questions ranged from issues of regulatory barriers to measurement to rural access.
Our comments focused on our area of expertise: Internet adoption. Our comments boil down to the following suggestions:
- Best Practices: We need to create a platform for community-based organizations to work together and support each other in digital inclusion work.
- Cross-Sector Coordination: We need to coordinate construction efforts to ensure that proper infrastructure is built out across the United States.
- Cross-Sector Partnerships: We need to incentivize sectors that are affected by Internet adoption to fund and engage in getting households online.
- Devices: Affordable Internet service needs to be paired with affordable tablets, laptops, or desktop computers to be truly effective.
- Expand E-rate: Schools need more funding that has the flexibility to allow paying for home connection for students.
- Measurement & Evaluation: We need to require more data from providers on how households use the Internet, payment trends, data usage, and more.
- Spectrum: We should consider allocating spectrum for affordable Internet access.
It’s wonderful that the Obama administration has shown dedication to getting all Americans online, and we believe the Broadband Opportunity Council has the chance to stimulate real and effective change. We hope they take into consideration our and others’ comments and offer constructive, actionable recommendations to connect the millions of Americans currently without home Internet service.