Equity & Education Policy
Report: Federal Broadband Funding, States, and Internet Providers Together Can Close the Digital Divide for the Greater Good
- By Kate Lucariello
fourth in a series of reports, partnered by digital media advocacy
Sense Media and the Boston
Consulting Group, “Closing
the Digital Divide Benefits Everyone, Not Just the Disconnected,”
examines how bringing internet connectivity to all results in broader
benefits to society, using federal funds, with states and internet
providers cooperating. The report is divided into three sections: how
institutions use connectivity, the infrastructure required for
digital essential services, and how to use available federal funds to
ensure access to all, regardless of location or income status.
report examines the benefits of full access in education, health
care, government services and employment. In 2021, Congress committed
more than $80 billion for broadband through the American
Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure
Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
The states are to manage and disburse funds to network
providers, who must prioritize building high-quality fiber networks
but ensure connectivity where they are not feasible. The programs
also subsidize internet service for low-income households, and
providers must make it affordable. In education, digital curriculum
resources can vastly improve learning, but students without full
access for lack of devices or connectivity can easily “fall behind
while their more connected peers make rapid progress,” the report
notes. Yet not taking advantage of such resources limits the benefits
to all students.
its conclusion, the report recommends that state leaders ensure that:
Populations served by institutions are fully connected, especially
those that offer essential services.
Institutions keep both online and offline services available.
Providers prioritize fiber connectivity.
States create broadband and digital equity funding programs should
federal funds run out or be discontinued.
States implement digital needs assessments.
States use the Affordable Connectivity Program to incentivize more
ISP choices in low-income communities and encourage households to
States update consumer protections as more households move online.
this page to download the full report.
Common Sense Media’s mission page to learn more
about its work and impact.
Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.