Voters Want Congress to Act Immediately to Close the Digital Divide

  • Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA)

WASHINGTON — The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), which seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption, released a poll conducted by Morning Consult revealing that nearly all American voters support Congress using federal funds to expand high-speed broadband internet access. The majority of voters in the United States want Congress to act “immediately” to close the Digital Divide.

According to the poll, nine out of 10 U.S. voters (90%) support Congress using federal funds to expand broadband internet network infrastructure to reach those living in areas not currently serviced by a broadband internet provider, and 62% want Congress to do so “immediately.” Nine out of 10 voters (88%) also support Congress creating new programs and increasing federal funding for existing programs that either partially subsidize or provide free broadband internet access to those who cannot currently afford it, including students in low-income families. Sixty-two percent (62%) want Congress to leverage these powers immediately.

“The pandemic has deepened Americans’ understanding of the importance of broadband for everyday life, from work to education, healthcare, entertainment, civic engagement, communication with friends and family, access to critical information and more,” commented Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance. “Reaching universal broadband – high-speed internet access for every American – will bring enormous benefits to the U.S. economy and our society as a whole.”

Home internet satisfaction is nearly unanimous six months after the pandemic hit the United States, with 92% of American voters satisfied, and a majority (51%) very satisfied, according to the survey.

Voter Support for Student Broadband Access

School is back in session, and the majority of U.S. voters (78%) say it’s “very” important for students to gain access to high-speed broadband internet. An overwhelming 95% of American voters think it’s a problem that 12 million students are without home broadband for remote online learning, according to the Senate Joint Economic Committee, or 15 million, according to Common Sense Media, with 3 out of 4 (76%) calling it a “major” problem.

“In March, the unimaginable became our reality: More than 55 million K-12 students switched to distance learning overnight in a country where one-in-five did not have access to broadband internet—the United States had no drill for this,” said IIA Co-Chair Kim Keenan. “Almost overnight, the Homework Gap turned into an education void. Now, as kids go back to school, families are facing a daunting new semester that will typically include more remote learning. Americans know that we cannot afford to continue leaving kids behind, not just during this pandemic but for the future of our nation.”

Nine out of 10 American voters (91%) also think it’s a problem that parts of Rural America lack broadband access, with two out of three (63%) identifying it as a “major” problem.

The following chart demonstrates the importance American voters place on bringing broadband internet access to groups that might not have it. Workers who are required to work from home are viewed as the top priority, with 78% of American voters saying it’s “very” important that they get broadband access and 18% responding that it’s “somewhat” important, followed by students who are now having to do remote learning online, with 78% of American voters saying it’s “very” important that they get broadband access and 17% responding that it’s “somewhat” important.

  Very important Somewhat important Not that important Not at all important
Workers who are required to work from home 78% 18% 3% 1%
Students who are now having to do remote learning online 78% 17% 4% 1%
Small businesses that need to sell their goods online to stay afloat 71% 25% 4% 1%
People who are sick and could schedule a telehealth appointment with their doctor instead of going in for a physical appointment 67% 27% 4% 2%
Rural communities where there is no broadband access 66% 28% 5% 1%
Workers who are recently unemployed who need to look for a new job or update their skills 63% 31% 5% 1%
People with lower incomes who cannot afford broadband internet access 61% 30% 7% 2%
Seniors who use their internet to stay connected with their friends and family 60% 33% 7% 1%

Additionally, more than half of American voters said they would be willing to pay more to help bring broadband access to those who cannot otherwise afford it (55%) and to subsidize internet infrastructure being deployed to those living in areas that otherwise would not have access (56%).

Congressional Action to Reach the Goal of Universal Broadband Is Needed

According to Congressman Rick Boucher, IIA Honorary Chair: "It’s now impossible to ignore the urgent need to close the digital divide, and IIA’s poll makes clear that Americans strongly support Congress taking action now to finally achieve universal broadband.

"In the next COVID stimulus bill, Congress should include significant dollars for broadband, fully funding the Broadband DATA Act so unserved areas can be identified with specificity. The billions of dollars that will be needed to connect households lacking broadband access – because neither fiber nor a cell signal reaches them – should also be provided.

"To help low-income families who can’t afford broadband, the Lifeline Program should be modernized to cut red tape that prevents participation and to directly provide the monthly subsidy to consumers. The Universal Service Program should also be reformed to make its funding more sustainable."

To review the IIA-Morning Consult poll, go to https://internetinnovation.org/UniversalBroadbandPoll.

 

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