This post was originally published on the TechSoup blog. Because this ruling directly affects digital inclusion efforts, we thought our library audience would also be interested.
Well, the FCC did it! The new rule was passed today, finally making home broadband affordable to nearly everyone.
What the New Lifeline Expansion Rule Will Do
Earlier this month, the FCC explained why Lifeline expansion matters: "Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefiting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history."
According to the FCC, 64 million Americans still live on the wrong side of the digital divide. The biggest reason these Americans don't sign up for broadband is its high cost.
With this rule change, the FCC says: "Lifeline subscribers will be able to take full advantage of the many benefits reliable Internet access can bring — from jobs to education to healthcare."
The new rule also establishes a National Eligibility Verifier to ensure against waste, fraud, and abuse. This verifier will use existing programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to determine eligibility.
Nonprofit Organizations Advocating for the Lifeline Expansion
Many nonprofits and libraries all across the country are doing great work around digital inclusion. Here are some that deserve special mention for their organizing to encourage the FCC Lifeline expansion.
- The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has organized a prominent U.S. nonprofit and librarydigital inclusion consortium.
- Everyone On is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses, accessible to all unconnected Americans. This organization has essentially proved the concept of what low-cost broadband can do.
- Connected Nation provides extensive broadband planning services and policy positions for communities and states. Its excellent policy brief lays out the case for FCC Lifeline expansion.
- California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has been working diligently in California for a decade to figure out how to end the digital divide. Its Internet for All Now is CETF's advocacy project to promote the FCC broadband expansion.
Thanks to this new FCC Lifeline expansion rule, I think 2016 just might be the year that the digital divide finally closes in the U.S.