Multiple utility cable spools sit on a snow covered hill with forest covered hills behind them

New Infrastructure Bill Seeks to Bridge Digital Divide

In November of 2021, President Biden signed a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill into law. A significant portion of the bill is allocated for upgrading access to broadband speed internet nationwide. This unprecedented amount of funding is set to be the largest investment into telecommunications by the public in the history of the country: what does it mean and what will it do?

FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund: Helping Schools and Libraries Close the Homework Gap

FCC to Open Second Application Window for Emergency Connectivity Fund

In December 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act which distributed $7 billion to increase broadband access in the United States. $3.2 billion was apportioned to create the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) detailed provisions of an Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) which included over $7.1 billion to support remote learning in schools and libraries. The ECF program focuses on schools and libraries, helping fund costs of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and other connectivity equipment. These funds are available to a wide range of libraries, including public, school, tribal, academic, research, and private libraries, in addition to library consortiums.

Two computer users, divided by a red line.

Redlining Takes Digital Form: How Can Libraries Help?

Historically, redlining refers to the practice of banks using maps to withhold loans for certain areas, usually poor communities of people of color. Now redlining takes digital form as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) get to choose where to build their networks and what types of plans are available. In today’s society, a reliable internet connection is a necessity, often required for job applications, scheduling travel, connecting with others, online education, and more recently working remotely from home. Those without an affordable high speed internet plan are at a distinct disadvantage, and communities with limited ISP options will again face obstacles for growth. Poor communities, often people of color, are being denied options for reliable internet plans when compared to white communities in the same area.