Using an approach we’ve come to expect from him, President Obama today announced a range of broadband initiatives with a common theme (in this case, broadband adoption) and he created a moniker (in this case, ConnectALL) to define the initiative. ConnectALL’s goal, according to a White House fact sheet, is to connect 20 million more Americans to broadband by 2020.
“[B]eing offline is more than inconvenient; it creates specific economic costs, especially for job-seekers unable to access online job search tools,” says the White House fact sheet, which cites a brief from the Council of Economic Advisers about the economic cost of being offline. The fact sheet states, for example, that unemployed workers without home Internet access take a longer time to find employment.
Previous Obama broadband initiatives comprised of multiple sub-initiatives included ConnectED, which focused on broadband for public schools and BroadbandUSA, which targeted broadband deployment and adoption.
One key element of ConnectALL is something Telecompetitor reported earlier this week – a plan by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to reform the USF low-income Lifeline program so that funding recipients can use the money for broadband, voice or both services. Previously funding could only be used for voice services.
FCC officials told reporters that the budget for the program would enable an additional 5 million or so American households to gain broadband connectivity. At an average of about three people per household, that could go a long way toward meeting Obama’s 20 million goal, but the numbers also suggest the potential need for other programs to fully reach Obama’s goal.
Other elements of ConnectALL include:
- A national service effort to deliver literacy skills through which AmeriCorps VISTA members will support digital literacy efforts at libraries, museums and associated community organizations located in tribal and rural communities
- Increasing access to affordable computing devices by re-engineering the Computers for Learning program to enable low-income Americans to gain access to computing equipment no longer needed by the federal government
- The Community Connectivity Initiative, which will fall under BroadbandUSA, will develop a tool to “support and accelerate local broadband planning efforts.” A wide range of organizations – including the American Library Association, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, Next Century Cities, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, US Ignite and others – will collaborate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on this project. Nineteen communities – including communities as large as Boston and as small as SeaTac, Washington – will also participate on this project.
- Cox Communications said it will host more than 200 events across the country for low-income K-12 families
- The Obama administration also will convene “leaders in the philanthropic, non-profit and private sectors” to a summit focused on delivering on ConnectALL’s vision for broadband connectivity