Today, the Federal Communications Commission announced the “Facilitate America's Superiority in 5G Technology (5G FAST) Plan” to ensure the United States wins the race to 5G wireless connectivity. The plan includes the nation’s largest spectrum auction in December 2019 and the promised future creation of a $20.4 billion rural broadband investment fund, “The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund,” to help close the digital divide.
I spent many weekends and summers at my grandmother’s house, a humble home down a long, dirt road outside of the town of Hazlehurst, Georgia. As a teenager and undergraduate student, a time when many of us are far too social, I knew a visit to my grandmother’s house meant an unwanted digital detox. Instead, I enjoyed the tranquility of sitting on the porch as mosquitoes buzzed by or I accompanied my grandmother in the living room as she watched reruns of Bonanza. I found other things to do with my time and not because I enjoyed being disconnected; it was because AT&T’s (during some of those years it was Cingular Wireless) cell reception was non-existent. In 2018, I now have one or two bars that sometimes allow me to make a call or text to a friend when I’m visiting; however, full access to the internet solely with my wireless connection is just not possible.
Today, Public Knowledge joins 17 rural, consumer, community media, tech rights, academic, and civil rights groups in launching Broadband Connects America, a coalition dedicated to ensuring all Americans have access to high-speed broadband.
In Swanton, California, just over 50 miles outside of tech Mecca Silicon Valley, my family can’t get reliable internet. Though affordability remains the number one barrier to internet adoption, we don’t lack connection because of a budget crunch. Instead, we lack access because we live in a rural area and carriers like ours, AT&T, have stopped investing and maintaining internet infrastructure in less populated areas.
Today, Public Knowledge Foundation joined 17 other organizations to form the Broadband Connects America coalition. The Coalition is comprised of a wide range of consumer, rural, and social justice organizations committed to closing the digital divide. Coinciding with today’s launch, Broadband Connects America released the Principles to Connect Rural America -- five principles to serve as a foundation for policymakers and advocates to promote policies that work to bring broadband to millions of rural Americans.