In The Tech That Will Change 2016, I boldly predicted that this is the year that the digital divide will finally be bridged in the United States.
I based this largely on a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rule change to expand the Universal Lifeline Program to include affordable $9.25-a-month home broadband.
Well, the FCC did it! The new rule was passed today, finally making home broadband affordable to nearly everyone.
Earlier this month, the FCC explained why Lifeline expansion matters: "Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefiting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history."
According to the FCC, 64 million Americans still live on the wrong side of the digital divide. The biggest reason these Americans don't sign up for broadband is its high cost.
With this rule change, the FCC says: "Lifeline subscribers will be able to take full advantage of the many benefits reliable Internet access can bring — from jobs to education to healthcare."
The new rule also establishes a National Eligibility Verifier to ensure against waste, fraud, and abuse. This verifier will use existing programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to determine eligibility.
Many nonprofits and libraries all across the country are doing great work around digital inclusion. Here are some that deserve special mention for their organizing to encourage the FCC Lifeline expansion.
Thanks to this new FCC Lifeline expansion rule, I think 2016 just might be the year that the digital divide finally closes in the U.S.
Image: melis / Shutterstock / text added
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