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Advancing Digital Inclusion with Affordable Internet Service
Posted December 06, 2016
By Heather Gate

The last fifteen years have been characterized by the rapid evolution of high-speed Internet technologies and accepting this technology’s power to accelerate innovation, education, economic development, and job opportunities. This evolution has been coupled by the increased need for public and private organizations to accept the social responsibility of ensuring that all people—particularly vulnerable populations—are not left behind in this age of technology. Thus, the term “digital divide” was coined to recognize the gap between people who have access and adopt and use technology versus those who do not.

For over a decade, Connected Nation has been dedicated to digital inclusion by creating public-private partnerships to help vulnerable individuals and organizations overcome the barriers to Internet technology adoption—affordability of devices and high-speed Internet service—as well as Internet skills training. Connected Nation’s initial efforts began in Kentucky with the No Child Left Offline (NCLO) program, which refurbished state surplus computers and donated them to families in the most economically depressed communities in the state.  This marked the first time that these families were receiving devices that children could use for homework or other family members could use to access Internet resources. Connected Nation’s programming later evolved to providing basic skills training and job placements across several states including Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Texas.  

Today, Connected Nation operates the Drive Learning Management platform, a resource for engaging a community of learners, trainers, volunteers, non-profits, and public or private organizations in order to support the enhancement of basic digital literacy skills, job skills, life skills, and lifelong learning in a digital world.  Additionally, Connected Nation is advancing digital inclusion in vulnerable communities by providing technology training, mentorship, and job placement with the Digital Works program.  This is a unique job creation strategy bringing high-demand, technology-based jobs to communities with vulnerable populations and ensuring people have the technology skills and resources to succeed.

While these programs have primarily helped to overcome device affordability and computer skills gaps, the last five years have seen an increased focus on providing affordable Internet service to vulnerable populations. From broadband providers to nonprofit Educational Broadband Service (EBS) licensees offering low cost service, users will have access to affordable service. For example:

To find additional organizations providing low cost broadband service, visit http://everyoneon.org/ and enter a zipcode.

In support of the fight to bridge the digital divide, the federal government recently expanded the Lifeline program to include subsidies for Internet. This means that effective December 2, 2016, broadband providers became eligible to participate in the Lifeline program and offer subsidized service. The service can be either wireless or a fixed service, such as cable, DSL, or fiber optic. The federal subsidy provided for mobile or fixed broadband for vulnerable populations is $9.25 per month through November 2021. To view the Lifeline Modernization Order of March 31, 2016, click here.

As a supporter of viable efforts to ensure that all households have access to Internet service, Connected Nation is encouraged by recent developments and is committed to working with community leaders and public-private partners to effect technological advancement via research, policy, broadband mapping, and local community planning and program implementation.

To learn more about the Digital Works modern, online workforce training program, visit http://digitalworksjobs.com.

To access the Drive Your Learning free online learning hub, visit http://driveyourlearning.org

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