Pew Charitable Trusts has founded a new five-member broadband alliance, Opportunity Broadband, designed to ensure that investments in closing the digital divide and providing universal, affordable broadband are rolled out in an equitable way, the trust announced.
The five initial members of Opportunity Broadband come from companies, associations, and non-profit organizations. The alliance’s first task will be to understand and identify any existing barriers between universal broadband access and the advances in health care, education, and economic opportunities that have been enabled by technology.
“Now is the time to ensure that the benefits of connectivity are available to all communities,” Kathryn de Wit, Pew Charitable Trusts’ broadband access initiative program director, said in a release. “Universally available and affordable broadband, access to devices, and digital literacy are the first – not the only – steps toward achieving that goal.”
Pew Charitable Trusts will be joined in the alliance by Heartland Forward, the James H. and Mary B. Quello Center at Michigan State University, Small Business Majority, and the XR Association.
“No single organization can take those steps alone,” de Wit added. “Delivering on the promises of digital equity will require sustained focus, investment, and partnerships that cross sectors and industries, which is why we’re thrilled to have these organizations and businesses joining this important work.”
Broadband and the need for universal, affordable Internet access has been emphasized by the massive shift towards telework, remote learning, and telehealth prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue has seen bipartisan support over the last year, with significant broadband investments in the American Rescue Plan, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and loan authority included in the fiscal year (FY) 2022 omnibus bill just signed into law March 15.
The alliance has plans to use the next few months to develop an action plan for communities to take advantage of high-speed Internet and plans to host a conference on the topic this summer.