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How Joe Biden can boost the economic recovery by expanding internet access

February 22, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 23.9%. 2 min read.

A child attends an online class at a learning hub inside the Crenshaw Family YMCA during the Covid-19 pandemic on February 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. - While many area schools remain closed for in-person classes, the learning hub program provides structured distance education resources including free WiFi, electricity, staff support, academic tutoring, and recreation activities to provide a safe environment to support low income and minority communities. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Nearly a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, many Americans remain stuck trying to work, attend school and socialize from home. For tens of millions of them, this is made more difficult because they lack access to fast, reliable internet at home.

In normal times, people without internet at home can often find it at work, school or public libraries — access points that have now largely been cut off.

Lower-income Americans and people of color, who have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, are also more likely to lack home broadband, the Pew Research Center found.

"It confounds logic that today the FCC decides to release a report that says that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion," Rosenworcel said in the statement.

The FCC's most recent report found that approximately 17% of rural Americans, 21% of Americans on tribal lands and 1% of urban Americans lacked access to a fixed broadband coverage (generally considered necessary to do things like make a Zoom call from home) as of the end of 2019.

In April, 22% of parents whose child's school closed said they are likely to have to use public Wi-Fi for schoolwork because there isn't a reliable internet connection at home, according to a Pew Research survey.

In December, Congress allocated $3. 2 billion for an emergency broadband benefit program that will provide up to $50 a month to subsidize internet subscriptions for many low-income Americans.

"Once you started breaking it into political constituencies, you got this issue where billions of dollars are allocated to connecting rural, pretty much ignoring the need to connect low-income," said Irving, the telecom consultant.

That would likely mean allocating more money to two FCC's programs: E-Rate and Lifeline, which provide funding for internet connectivity to schools and libraries and low-income consumers.

"What I think we don't want to see is the American taxpayers spend billions of dollars so that we can connect people for a short-term win, when those same billions of dollars, if they're repurposed, could give people long-term connectivity," he said.

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