Roughly one in three Americans still doesn’t have broadband Internet service at home. A whopping 40 percent of African Americans and half of Hispanic Americans are out in the cold when it comes to broadband. Solving this problem and getting everyone online is critical to rebuilding our economy. Most Fortune 500 companies will only post new job offerings online, and most middle-class jobs require strong Internet skills.
Two years ago, the FCC teamed with the nation’s largest broadband provider — Comcast — to initiate the largest experiment ever attempted to close the digital divide. Their program, known as Internet Essentials, offers heavily discounted broadband service, affordable computers and training to low-income families — almost 150,000 in the Miami area. No attempt to close the digital divide has ever been so successful. Nearly a million Americans have joined in just two years. Now other broadband providers such Cox and Suddenlink√ are also joining the ranks to provide the same service.
The lessons are clear: We can fix problems, help people and grow the economy if we work together, across partisan lines, and with public-private sector cooperation. All it takes is persistence, cooperation and creativity.
Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president, NAACP, Washington, D.C.