Over the past year, I have written a number of times about the need to get more computers into lower income households with children.
To date, government programs focus on delivery of broadband subsidies based on geography, rather than affordability. We have looked at targeting the high price of rural and remote service, without regard to affordability for low income households regardless of geography.
I think these programs have failed to do enough.
Earlier today, the FCC announced a bold partnership with industry that will deliver low cost computers and broadband and basic digital literacy to low income American households with school aged children. As the FCC chair stated, and similar to what I wrote about earlier this week, “Whether we’re talking about jobs, education or healthcare, in this day and age, getting online is a necessity, not a convenience.”
The US program has been anchored by the National Cable TV Association membership that will be offering a $10 cable broadband service to households that qualify for the school lunch program. It is a way to readily identify low income households with school aged children. These homes are seen as being least likely to subscribe to broadband service. In other words, the program isn’t cannibalizing existing revenues and the program won’t apply outside the existing service areas.
Five years ago, I wrote a piece called “Doing well by doing doing good.” At the time, I quoted opening remarks from an industry event that cited Margaret Mead’s inspirational statement “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I don’t think we can wait any longer for leadership from the government in the form of its digital strategy. Even if we had received a nice glossy book or a slick website, entitled “National Digital Strategy”, let’s face it, we have a lousy track record implementing these kinds of things.
I’d like to hear from people who want to actually do something. Who’s in?
UPDATE: Greg O’Brien and Cartt.ca has a commentary calling for Canada’s ISPs to take responsibility for expanding affordability of broadband service to low income Canadians.