Nine digital equity organizations have banded together to launch a new coalition focused on urging Congress to dedicate net proceeds from future spectrum auctions to support digital literacy and inclusion efforts.
The coalition, named Airwaves for Equity, consists of the American Library Association (ALA), the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the Center for Rural Strategies, Common Sense Media, Consumer Reports, National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute at New America, and the Schools Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides over $60 billion to make broadband internet connections accessible and more affordable. But these efforts will fall short if people don’t know how to use technology or cannot tap its value for their most basic needs,” said Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute. “Airwaves for Equity proposes a sustainable way to bridge this remaining challenge of the digital divide by promoting digital literacy and adoption efforts.”
The coalition has proposed that Congress dedicate a “substantial portion of wireless spectrum auction revenues” to endow a Digital Equity Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to provide sustainable funding for initiatives designed to promote digital literacy and inclusion, including creating local digital navigator programs and expanding telehealth services to disability access and efforts to close the K-12 homework gap.
The ability to dedicate spectrum auction funding is dependent on Congress extending the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to auction spectrum – which is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2022 – so the FCC can continue to offer airwaves for new commercial uses.
The coalition’s call for congressional action comes as FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel called on Congress take a different path with spectrum auction proceeds. Rosenworcel called on lawmakers to pass legislation that will dedicate proceeds from upcoming spectrum auctions toward a nationwide investment in digital, next-generation 911 services.