To Close the Digital Divide, Streamline Federal Funding


To Close the Digital Divide, Streamline Federal Funding

June 23, 2023

This piece was originally published by Broadband Breakfast.

Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing to examine fragmentation, overlap, and duplication of federal programs. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, took the opportunity to highlight one of the greatest areas of duplicated federal efforts: broadband. With the Joe Biden administration hesitant to take the lead on streamlining federal broadband programs, it’s time for Congress to step in.

For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have consistently affirmed that closing this digital divide is a federal priority. Romney, for example, has often worked with his democratic counterparts to expand broadband access in rural Utah. But, in its eagerness to connect every American, Congress and the executive branch have overseen the proliferation of a complex web of duplicative federal programs. 

According to a GAO report from last year, the federal government runs over 130 programs administered across 15 different agencies all with the singular goal of helping Americans get connected. GAO found that, between 2015 and 2020, the federal government invested over $44 billion in closing the digital divide, and recent legislation has appropriated tens of billions more over the next few years. This funding varies, but generally falls into one of three categories: programs intended to expand broadband access, programs intended to make broadband more affordable, and programs intended to build digital skills. 

Continue reading at Broadband Breakfast.

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