Jonathan Spalter

A Shared Commitment to Digital Equity

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is one for the history books for many reasons. One of the most overlooked elements is that its $65 billion in broadband commitments add up to the single biggest digital equity initiative ever undertaken by our nation.

From $42.5 billion in BEAD funding targeting deployment to unserved and underserved homes and businesses, to the Affordable Connectivity Program that is connecting more than 16 million low-income households to free or very low-cost service, to resources for digital skills training, device access and related initiatives, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act takes a bold, holistic, and realistic approach to what it takes to achieve true universal connectivity.

With its multi-dimensional focus on deployment, adoption, and digital equity support, this landmark legislation offers a powerful complement to broadband providers’ own longstanding work:

  • On access, broadband providers invested $86 billion in their networks in 2021 alone—offering 100 Mbps or faster high-speed internet to more than 90% of the country.
  • On affordability, 1,300+ broadband companies participate in the ACP, and USTelecom is among the many supporters of making this program permanent for low-income families.
  • On adoption and digital equity, broadband providers partner with community organizations on an array of digital inclusion initiatives to help ensure students and families as well as small businesses in underrepresented communities have the tools and resources needed to thrive in our digital economy.

Promoting universal connectivity and connecting all communities to digital opportunity is a shared commitment that defines and unifies USTelecom’s members, and it is at the heart of the Infrastructure Act. At the end of the day, it is our ability to work constructively together—public, private, and community stakeholders—across all three dimensions of the universal connectivity puzzle that will determine our collective success.

To help advance this work, Congress has directed the Federal Communications Commission to develop rules “to facilitate equal access to broadband,” including by “preventing digital discrimination of access based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin.”

We firmly support the goal of equal access to broadband and will continue working to close the digital divide so that all Americans—regardless of income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin—can realize the power and promise of high-speed connectivity. If the FCC follows Congress’s direction, it can adopt broadband policy that will amplify the effect of Infrastructure Act funding and further catalyze private sector investment while ensuring these efforts are not tarnished by discrimination.

Ensuring advanced broadband networks reach every home and business and empowering every person to fully participate in our connected world are essential cornerstones of digital equity. That’s why America’s broadband providers are ready to roll up our sleeves and continue working alongside the FCC and all committed stakeholders to finally and fully connect everyone to the transformative opportunities broadband makes possible in our lives.