Coalition Launched to Close Rural Digital Divide

Coalition Launched to Close Rural Digital Divide

Eighteen rural, consumer, community media, tech rights, academic, and civil rights organizations have announced the launch of Broadband Connects America, a coalition dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to high-speed broadband.

As part of the launch, coalition partners — which include Axiom, the Benton Foundation, the California Center for Rural Policy, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Public Knowledge — have outlined five "Principles to Connect Rural America." According to the guidelines, funding to close the rural digital divide should be simple and allocated directly to infrastructure needs, not to last-mile carriers; should support a combination of approaches that reflects the complexity of the challenges associated with deploying broadband to rural America; should be focused on achieving tangible, affordable universal service for all rural Americans rather than allocated based on profit and population density; and should support efforts to restore net neutrality.

According to Broadband Connects, 39 percent of rural Americans lack high-speed broadband, making the rural digital divide one of the largest such disparities in the country.

"Rural America is desperate for meaningful broadband connection. These principles are a big step forward in making that happen," said Daiquiri Ryan, policy fellow at Public Knowledge. "These Principles to Connect Rural America outline simple, common-sense ways that policy makers [on both sides of] the aisle can [use to] facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. Ensuring reliable, consistent access to the Internet will level the playing field and allow rural America to utilize all of the economic opportunities its urban counterparts enjoy."

"Millions of Latinos across rural America are missing out on educational and economic opportunities simply because they do not have access to broadband Internet," said Francella Ochillo, vice president of policy and general counsel at the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "Those communities deserve better, equal access and reliable connectivity. Otherwise, they will continue to be denied full participation in a digital society, and those who are connected will continue to miss out on their talents and industry."