The Broadband Opportunity Council is a body created by President Obama in April, with representatives from two dozen Executive Branch departments and agencies. Its purpose is to “understand ways the Executive Branch can better support the needs of communities seeking broadband investment… [and] help identify regulatory barriers unduly impeding broadband deployment, adoption or competition, and recommend steps to remove such barriers.”
The Council put out a call for public input to inform its deliberations. Here are the comments submitted yesterday by CYC 2.0 Director Bill Callahan.
Callahan suggested three specific steps the Administration could take, without new budget authority or legislation, to support community broadband adoption programs:
1. The Department of Heallh and Human Services, whose sub-agencies control billions of dollars in funding for Electronic Health Record deployment and research, should take responsibility for creating a modest funding stream for community programs that help disconnected households get online and learn to use their electronic Personal Health Records (like MyChart).
2. The Department of Housing and Urban Development should make broadband access and digital literacy training for low income households an explicit “eligible activity” for Community Development Block Grant funding. (Current rules categorize such expenditures as “public service” activities, which are limited to a set “capped” amount for each city that has to cover a host of important non-housing services.)
3. Federal bank regulators, starting with the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of he Currency, should allow banks to get credit in their annual Community Reinvestment Act ratings for investing in community digital inclusion programs that help residents learn to use online banking tools.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance, our new national advocacy coalition, also submitted comments to the BOC yesterday which included these among a number of similar ideas for community digital inclusion support.