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Today, Verizon urges a new government approach to help bridge the digital divide. The pandemic has made clear that broadband is critical to daily life and that a lack of connectivity can reinforce and widen educational and economic disparities.
Millions of Americans still lack access to broadband, can’t afford it, or don’t have the digital skills to use it. That needs to change. While Congress and the FCC have adopted policies to address the digital divide over the years and in recent emergency legislation, they don’t go far enough. The broadband gap is a persistent national problem that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive way.
Verizon is committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to broadband and are equipped with the skills to use it. We’re proud to provide the connectivity that’s keeping tens of millions of Americans educated, employed, and informed, including through our support for discounted broadband plans that cover 38 million students across 40 states and the District of Columbia, and our recently announced extension through 2021 of our discount on Verizon's Fios home broadband service for customers qualifying for the FCC’s Lifeline program that allows those customers to purchase a 200/200 Mbps fiber service with no data caps for just $19.99/month. In addition, through Citizen Verizon, our plan for economic, environmental and social advancement, we have committed to provide 10 million youths with digital access and skills training by 2030.
While private sector digital inclusion efforts like those Verizon and others have undertaken and existing government broadband programs, like Lifeline, have increased access to broadband, solving the country’s broadband challenges will require bold new government action. That’s why Verizon today is calling on Congress to take critical steps to further expand broadband access and implement new tools that will enable even more Americans to use the power of the internet, including:
A new permanent broadband benefit program of $20-$50 per month for low-income recipients as an alternative to Lifeline, the existing program that provides low income consumers a $9.25 discount today. This new benefit would empower vulnerable communities by maximizing people’s ability to choose the services that work best for them.
- Benefits would be federally funded via government appropriations and placed onto electronic benefit cards that recipients could use just like any customer would use a debit card to purchase broadband service.
- Recipients could choose what plans, services, or equipment meets their needs, rather than being relegated to a single low-cost tier of service.
- Streamlined enrollment for recipients to help increase participation.
Increasing education in digital skills needed to learn, work, and communicate effectively online, including federal support for local, state, and nonprofit organizations that provide digital literacy training and education.
Support for local and municipal governments to update their systems to make it easier for people to receive the government services they need online.
Expansion of broadband deployment. New support to build broadband in rural or unserved areas, or in areas where the economics fail to support private deployment.
It’s time for a new national strategy to deliver affordable broadband to all Americans and to help them develop the skills to use it. Adopting the policies Verizon proposes to address affordability, adoption, and access will empower more Americans to thrive in the internet age and help ensure that no one is left behind by the digital revolution. For more information and specific proposals as to how these goals can be met, check out www.verizon.com/acceleratingamerica.