What Does the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Report Tell Us About the Digital Divide?

John B. Horrigan is Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

Conclusion

Back to the original question: What does the latest 706 report tell us about the digital divide? Not very much. It uses carrier-reported data that vary wildly from other methods and focuses only on a single part of the digital divide. Here are suggestions for action:

• . Continue to improve metrics: As the NTIA addresses broadband mapping, it should consider bringing network speed measurement into the picture to capture network performance at the local level.

• . Bolster capacity at the local level: With the digital divide becoming more local, the federal government should equip localities with the resources they need to address it.

The FCC recently gutted the ability of local governments to raise resources to address digital inclusion by limiting their ability to charge fees for rights-of-way for 5G deployment. Prior to federal preemption, some places used such fees for digital inclusion planning and funding. The federal government should develop a digital inclusion planning and grant program to help defray, in part at least, lost local revenues from the FCC’s action. Senator Patty Murray recently introduced the Digital Equity Act of 2019 which offers a vehicle for such a program.

Policymakers’ focus on the digital divide will not go away anytime soon. As dialogue on it continues, better data and a broad understanding of the problem are crucial to helping decision-makers make progress on the digital divide.

Emphasis was added.  The full report is HERE.

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