Rich Gagnon, City Manager and Chief Information Officer for the City of Amarillo in Texas says it best: “the digital divide is the divide between those that have access to our modern digital life and those that don’t.”
Access to the internet impacts all aspects of life: education, telemedicine and banking to name a few. When we think about how to help bridge this digital divide, there are three key areas to focus on:
- Access: It’s important that networks reach as many people as possible – from rural to urban communities, on tribal lands and beyond.
- Affordability: The next step is providing options for making high-speed internet low or no cost to those who need it.
- This is where the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) comes in. The ACP is a $14 billion federal program that currently supports 17 million enrolled families to afford internet access. Long-term funding for the ACP is currently being debated in Congress but the importance of the program is unquestionable.
- Adoption: Even some who have access to affordable, high-speed internet don’t have the digital skills or access to equipment, like smartphones or laptops, to use it. The final step is to ensure everyone knows how to safely and confidently use the high-speed internet they have access to.
- This includes providing training on digital skills and cyber safety for personal and professional internet use, in addition to outreach efforts to distribute devices.
When we address the barriers to access, affordability and adoption of broadband internet, we’re closer to helping bridge the digital divide. Hear from industry leaders on the digital divide and how the industry is working with communities to create more connections.