Digital Advancement Principles
Broadband Infrastructure and Adoption
Broadband Speed Definition: The federal government should increase the federally-mandated definition of “broadband” to reflect connectivity speeds sufficient to power telework, teleschool, telehealth, and other streaming capabilities. This means increasing the FCC’s current baseline speeds from 25 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload to symmetrical speeds of 50 Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload with an ideal target of 100 Mbps download/upload. No federally-subsidized residential broadband projects should offer speeds below the new standard.
Infrastructure Codes: The federal government should curate a set of standards and best practices when designing broadband infrastructure for housing; especially if public funds or housing credits are being utilized. More specifically, we need to encourage and incentivize the adoption of the NECA/FOA 301 standard for installing and testing fiber optics.
Broadband Mapping: The federal government should set new national standards for broadband mapping and provide the appropriate funding for federal, state and local efforts to contribute to a robust national mapping mandate. National standards should include current broadband availability (private and public), easily attainable additional private sector-funded broadband infrastructure, affordability relative to local income levels, current household connectivity, and usage. Mapping data should be transparent and made openly available.
Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Reform: The federal government should reform the CRA to explicitly encourage and incentivize banks to invest in affordable broadband that meets the standard for meaningful access in rural and urban America. Likewise, the CRA should be expanded to require other industries—such as the technology and telecom sectors—to invest in low- and moderate-income communities to support home-based broadband and technology access as well as adoption activities that promote economic development such as digital skills training, workforce development, access to telehealth, and small business development.
Digital Advancement Index: The independent sector should fund a Digital Advancement Municipal Index, a product currently in development to help municipalities measure progress toward digital advancement with a focus on solutions for low-income and underserved populations. Unlike broadband mapping efforts, the Index will measure total digital advancement—the combined goals of infrastructure improvement and the meaningful applications of that infrastructure that result in standard of living and quality of life improvements for all citizens.
Consumer Subsidies: In cases where affordability to broadband is a challenge, many providers created programs to subsidize the cost but the requirements to take advantage of these programs are so stringent the majority of in-need applicants are not eligible. Any subsidy provided to consumers that is meant to expand adoption should reach the people who need it most with fewer restrictions so that it can truly benefit those experiencing barriers to adoption. Additionally, these subsidies should be ongoing and - be made permanent - so that they can bring lasting benefits to recipients.
A statement of public policy principles and recommendations that will increase and enhance the standard of living for all Americans.
National Digital Advancement
Universal access is essential
We must first acknowledge that access to the tools of the 21st century is essential to everyday life and economic mobility. We must also internalize that the current baselines for connectivity are woefully inadequate to meet the data demands of this new decade. The most crucial access is in one’s home, and home-based access is not a luxury. Universal and meaningful access must be made available and supported in all urban and rural geographies, across all races and demographics.
Access and adoption bring limitless possibilities
The lack of broadband access and adoption costs the U.S. over $130 million a day in economic activity. Embedding broadband infrastructure in the home by design, and providing meaningful ways for individuals to access information and technology to improve their lives will usher in a wave of economic activity and wealth creation for those who have been left out.
Adoption is about culture
It is not enough to provide technology for technology’s sake. We must understand a person’s culture to ensure their use of broadband supports their needs and potential. To be effective, technology and digital strategies must meet people where they are, conveying value in ways that are culturally relevant and accessible to them and their community. The audience for any adoption program must be seen as engaged participants and not as mere service recipients.
Innovation requires convergence
Digital advancement demands an all hands-on deck approach. Through the intentional assembly of human and financial capital from all sectors and disciplines, we can generate breakthrough innovation for social impact and open up new markets. While the private sector relentlessly focuses on consumer relevance and convenience when delivering new technology tools, the independent sector and philanthropy groups deeply internalize social purpose and the goal of supporting communities for better outcomes. The public sector’s power lies in its ability to create policies and convene these normally disparate stakeholders to work together toward shared goals.
The private sector is critical
A systemic approach is intentionally cross-sectoral and must engage the private sector in both infrastructure and adoption solutions. For example, there are unique and compelling opportunities to engage the financial services and housing industries in digital solutions. Digital advancement can also be bolstered when the software and content development sectors more intentionally target public purpose applications.
Solutions must be data-driven
Accurate data about supply and demand, availability and affordability, speed, adoption, and uses are crucial to understanding the scope and scale of our infrastructure needs and what solutions are required. Broadband adoption cannot be mapped using a broad brush and it cannot be the sole domain of the supply chain. The public sector should be engaged in the collection and transparent dissemination of detailed and standardized data to inform the public and private sector’s approaches to digital advancement.
Housing quality positively impacts people and the planet
Leveraging innovation in the home opens the door to making every home smart and green. A smart growth approach to housing, with compact development, green design and passive construction, can help building owners reduce their carbon footprint and lower costs for maintenance and utilities. Pairing this smart and green approach with robust transportation options for communities and their residents creates healthier, more affordable, and climate resilient neighborhoods.
The accelerated reliance on digitally connected technology at work and in the home is widening socioeconomic disparities in America - further separating the haves and the have-nots. Individuals and communities that cannot access strong internet connectivity and avail themselves of the benefits of digital technologies are excluded from opportunities to build wealth, further their education, and live healthy lives. We need a national strategy that leverages technology with social purpose to produce robust outcomes and create a truly inclusive digital economy; one that prioritizes those who have traditionally been left out because of race, class, or geography and that enables all communities to thrive.
To achieve these outcomes, we must establish a national campaign for digital advancement. At its core, digital advancement is the optimization of technology to advance standard of living and improve quality of life. Digital advancement represents a new mindset for change, recognizing connectivity not merely as a means unto itself, but rather an essential conduit to a more equitable and prosperous future where human capital is maximized for everyone. Through the lens of digital advancement, the home is valued as a center of opportunity, where technology and culture converge to transform lives.
This movement begins by rethinking what constitutes a meaningful internet connection that can handle the demands of telework - particularly for those in the gig economy that generate significant content remotely - as well as lifelong learners from K-12 and adults who need reliable networks for virtual education and immersive training. In 2019, 157.2 million Americans -- nearly 1 in 2 -- were unable to use the internet in meaningful ways due to policy limitations. Household download speeds have increased five times the average rate for five years, and yet the minimum federal requirement set in 2015 remains unchanged. It is only with a strong digital connection that we can leverage the comprehensive applications of technology, and the innovative human capital using that technology, to drive impact.
Federal, state, county and local governments, and public utilities have an ever-increasing and critical role in providing meaningful broadband access to promote digital advancement. The policies of these entities can help or hinder multi-sector stakeholder efforts and facilitate, incentivize or disincentivize investment and adoption at scale. We must design and support enlightened and coordinated policies to enable digital advancement through infrastructure and continuous innovation with social purpose.
What follows are a series of policy principles and recommendations that we believe encompass the spirit of digital advancement and, if internalized and implemented by the wide range of multi-sector entities described within, will optimize technology to advance the standard of living and improve quality of life for all of America. At the end of the document, we respectfully request your partnership by adding your organization as a signatory to it.
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Broadband in the Home
Affordable Housing Support: The federal government should make broadband essential infrastructure in the home by requiring all affordable housing subsidized by state and local governments to provide affordable connectivity options for residents. Additionally, local governments ought to aggregate demand to foster private sector infrastructure investments and focus on removing investment barriers.
Public Housing Support: At the federal level, the government should mandate that broadband be brought into all public housing projects as an essential service and make the installation of broadband infrastructure an allowable capital and operating expenditure under its retrofitting and modernization programs.
Senior Care Support: To drive cost savings and improved health outcomes for Americans aging-in-place, state and local governments should foster the deployment of health-focused Internet-of-Things (IoT) into the home and amend affordable housing finance policies to incentivize broadband access and the affordable acquisition of these devices.
Local Network Investment: Direct federal resources to include municipal and community-led programs dedicated to increasing local broadband infrastructure and promoting home-based adoption, with an emphasis on those efforts serving rural and urban communities where connectivity is limited or non-existent and where barriers to home-based adoption place digital advancement out of reach for individuals and families. To encourage municipalities to invest in broadband infrastructure, the federal government should provide incentives such as subsidies for municipalities with limited resources and access to credit.
Quantifiable Sustainability: Where possible, the government should provide incentive opportunities for developers to embed practices of sustainability in their efforts to bring broadband connectivity in the home. This means adding QAP scoring bonuses for tax-credit programs, implementing passive design strategies to reduce utility usage, sourcing materials from eco-friendly partners, and curating quantitative analytics to benchmark and track the long-term socio-economic benefits associated with the proliferation of green space and lowered harmful emissions.
Human Capital: Federal and state workforce investment systems should make new investments and repurpose existing resources to better meet both national and individual needs and aspirations by providing resources for: digital skills training to increase the middle skill labor talent supply; upskilling and reskilling pathways via on-the-job training; apprenticeships and other work based learning opportunities; and career and education pathways to in-demand jobs and careers that provide family and life sustaining wages. This 21st century workforce should be deployed in these same communities that need human capital to support strategies for digital advancement.
Spectrum Allocation: The federal government should require all spectrum auctions to set-aside a portion of proceeds to fund training & adoption initiatives, planning, and capacity grants.
Educational Institutions: The federal government should position and invest in the role of Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AAPISIs), as a critical resource for communities to provide technology adoption programs and expertise to support residents and small businesses in campus-adjacent communities and regions.