Reflections on SHLB’s 2020 Impact April 06, 2021
By Alicja Johnson, communications manager, SHLB Coalition
I know, I know. You don’t want to think about 2020 anymore. But the SHLB Coalition just published our 2020 Annual Report last month, and it feels appropriate to reflect on a year like no other. As Professor Dumbledore would say, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” If you’ll bear with me, let’s flip the switch. I promise to use the “C-word” as little as possible.
The SHLB Coalition proudly welcomes organizations of all shapes and sizes, as long as they support our Mission: “For every anchor institution in the country to have affordable, high-quality broadband that serves the needs of the institution and is open and accessible to the surrounding community.”
In 2020, we had 50 new members join us in our work to close the digital divide through community anchor institutions, ending the year at 218 members strong. We also took an important step toward making SHLB membership even more valuable: welcoming our first membership director, Eric Fredell!
Raising Awareness and Taking Action
When schools and libraries closed their physical doors last March, and healthcare providers experienced unparalleled demand for telehealth services, the SHLB Coalition was one of the first to take action – both for those without home internet access, and the anchors that needed to increase their bandwidth.
We spoke with over 50 different news outlets to raise awareness about these emergencies. We also wrote to the Federal Communications Commission to recommend about 15 actions it could take to help anchors and their communities during this time. The FCC adopted several of these suggestions, but that was just the beginning of our 2020 advocacy. Additional highlights include:
- Worked with congressional staff to draft the Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act, which would streamline Rural Health Care Program application processing and add $2 billion to the program. The bill was introduced in both the Senate and the House.
- Ensured that the House Rural Broadband Task Force’s proposal would fund gigabit capacity for every anchor institution. The proposal was recently re-introduced in both chambers, as the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act.
- Collaborated with the State E-rate Coordinators Alliance to persuade the FCC to open a second filing window for E-rate, so that schools and libraries could receive funding for the additional bandwidth needed for remote learning.
All in all…
As SHLB’s executive director John Windhausen and former Chairman of the Board Eric Brown note in the annual report, the COVID-19 pandemic brought our mission into sharper focus than ever before. From students doing homework in the school parking lot to healthcare providers pivoting to reach patients at home, every day brought stark reminders of why we do what we do. Although the country is beginning to recover from this dreadful pandemic, the SHLB team won’t soon forget the importance of closing the digital divide.