Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Broadband for Libraries and Schools
But another problem is simple availability. As the ALA's report (PDF) points out, "moving from a 56Kbps circuit to 1.5Mbps is one thing. Moving from 1.5Mbps to 20Mbps or to 100Mbps or even to a gigabit—depending on the size and need of the library—is another." Even when they can pay for it, many libraries are finding that higher speeds simply aren't available.This program has been around since 1998 and has paid out $25 billion. Imagine if the program had encouraged the schools and libraries to build their own networks from the start - a truly sustainable approach rather than an approach that brought slow broadband to these anchor institutions while rewarding telephone companies significantly overcharging for slow services. Consider Joanne Hovis of Columbia Telecommunications Company -
In Montgomery County schools connected to a community-owned fiber network are getting access to 100Mbps speeds and paying $71 per Mbps per month, whereas neighboring schools not on the network are paying $2,000 a month for T1 service at 1.54Mbps, and that price is subsidized by matching e-rate funds of an additional $2,000 a month.[quoted by App-Rising.com]This is not to say eRate is a total failure because without it, many schools and libraries would not have been able to offer the services they do. Additionally, some smart communities have used eRate the help build publicly owned networks - as in Danville, Virginia, where the publicly owned utility successfully bid for contracts to the schools under eRate programs. But eRate should go further in encouraging these innovative and sustainable solutions rather than continuing to pay for connections that will only increase in price -- a rather unsustainable approach. Many of these networks will be able to pay for the operating costs but they need assistance in being established. Thus, a smart program would push communities in the direction of local self-reliance rather than enabling endless, expensive dependence on companies that have little incentive to improve connectivity. Federal programs should prioritize public ownership, if for no other reason than it pushes funding recipients to become responsible for the solution. Requiring responsibility encourages sustainable solutions, rather than defaulting to a lousy status quo. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Chan on Flickr, used under creative commons license.
In 2020, New York City officials unveiled a massive new broadband proposal they promised would dramatically reshape affordable broadband access in the city.
Instead, the program has been steadily and quietly dismantled, replaced by a variety of costly half-measures that critics say don’t solve the actual, underlying cause of expensive, substandard broadband.
On January 1st, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with $14.2 billion in funding designed to help American households pay for the monthly cost of their Internet subscription.
In May, we published a story about the fate of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), based on a prediction model we built that was intended to visualize how long we might expect the $14.2 billion fund to last before needing new Congressional appropriations to sustain it. We’re back today not only with a new and improved model (based both on more granular geographic data and fed by an additional 16 weeks of enrollment data), but a new dashboard that pulls together a host of information from the Universal Service Administrative Corporation on where and how the Affordable Connectivity Program money is being spent.