CYC 2.0 comments support FCC action on Lifeline broadband option

CYC 2.0 Director Bill Callahan yesterday submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission supporting the agency’s proposal to create a low-income broadband option as part of the Federal Lifeline telephone program.

The FCC has asked for public comments on the idea itself, as well as on a long list of related questions laid out in a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”.  Yesterday was the deadline for initial comments.  A second round of “reply comments” will be due at the end of September.

In a three-page letter addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Callahan wrote:

The purpose of this letter… is simply to reiterate CYC 2.0’s strong support for Commission action to create a robust Lifeline broadband option, and the urgency of expanding affordable home broadband access in our particular local communities.

Our core cities, Cleveland and Detroit, are two of the nation’s worst-connected in terms of household Internet access. According to data from the U.S. Census’ most recent American Community Survey, more than a third of all households in Cleveland and Detroit still had no home Internet access of any kind in 2013 — not even mobile or dialup. For households with incomes below $20,000 the “disconnected” percentage was above 50% — again, with no home Internet access of any kind.

This is an obstacle not just for the households themselves, but for our local government, healthcare, education, banking, human services and civic-sector institutions which increasingly need to engage online with all of of their constituents, customers and clients.

The letter outlines three important examples: the inability of disconnected Cleveland and Detroit households to access their electronic health records, to deal with the new all-computerized GED examination, or to use our states’ increasingly Web-based systems for Medicaid, Food Assistance (SNAP), Unemployment Compensation and other human services. It concludes:

These examples illustrate the degree to which gaps in affordable broadband access and the skills to use it, affecting large numbers of Cleveland and Detroit’s low income residents, are starting to inflict significant costs, not just on the residents themselves but on community institutions trying to serve them.

The Commission can significantly reduce these costs through decisions in this proceeding to:

a) enable all low-income Cleveland and Detroit households to secure truly affordable, robust broadband Internet access through the Lifeline program, and
b) take responsibility for a coordinated effort to develop resources for community-based training in support of these new broadband users, both through incentives for Lifeline broadband providers and through leadership and collaboration with other concerned Federal agencies.

Callahan’s letter begins by expressing CYC 2.0’s strong support for the more detailed comments on the filed yesterday by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.