SHLB’s 2020 Policy Roadmap Calls for Strengthening Broadband Programs

 

  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition

WASHINGTON — The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities, released its 2020 Policy Roadmap, outlining the path forward for community anchor institution (CAI) broadband. Schools, libraries, healthcare providers, and other CAIs rely on high-quality broadband to provide essential services to their communities. It is imperative that policymakers, industry, and anchor institutions collaborate to connect all CAIs to affordable, gigabit broadband – a key step in closing the digital divide.

“The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan called for all U.S. anchors to have gigabit connectivity by the year 2020,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition. “Unfortunately, we failed to achieve this critical goal. Even worse, we don’t have sufficient mapping data about anchor institution broadband to measure our progress. We are still confident that the gigabit milestone is within reach, and the priorities in SHLB’s 2020 Policy Roadmap will guide us there. Our work continues to be led by the principle that deploying broadband “to and through'' anchor institutions will ensure that everyone has access to high-speed, affordable internet. We look forward to working with the FCC, Congress, and the Executive Branch to ensure that no student, patient, or library patron suffers from inadequate internet connectivity.”

The SHLB Coalition will pursue  the following policy priorities in 2020:

  • Increase funding and improve administration of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program. Healthcare providers count on the Rural Health Care (RHC) program to afford broadband for critical services like telehealth. SHLB will work with the FCC and Congress to provide sufficient funding and improve administrative processes to encourage more health clinics to participate in the program, thereby improving the quality of healthcare in rural America. 
  • Strengthen the E-rate Program. E-rate gives schools and libraries affordable broadband access to educate and connect tomorrow’s leaders. E-rate must adapt to embrace new technologies such as Wi-Fi on school buses and cybersecurity services necessary to protect school and library networks. 
  • Fund broadband infrastructure for anchor institutions. Commercial and non-commercial broadband providers are valuable partners for connecting all CAIs to gigabit broadband. However, they need government funding to connect anchors in areas that are too costly to reach. 
  • Increase competition through licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Making more spectrum available gives anchors the flexibility to choose the best connectivity solution for their unique situations. 
  • Simplify and strengthen the Universal Service Fund. Rural students, veterans, low-income residents, and communities of color are just some of the people who obtain connectivity through USF programs. The USF now faces challenges that broadband policymakers must address, such as developing a future-proof funding mechanism and simplifying the application process. 
  • Include anchors in broadband availability maps. As the FCC and Congress improve broadband maps with more accurate and granular data, they must include information about anchors. These maps should not be used to create barriers to competitors offering lower prices to anchor institutions.

To learn more about SHLB’s 2020 Policy Roadmap, visit www.shlb.org/policy/roadmap

 



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