SHLB's 2023 Policy Roadmap Calls for Leveraging Anchor Institutions to Solve the Digital Divide March 31, 2023
Contact: Saskya Cabral
For Immediate Release
Marketing and PR Director
SHLB's "to and through" approach provides a cost-effective way to lower broadband costs for disadvantaged people.
Washington, D.C. (March 31, 2023) - Today, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition released its 2023 Policy Roadmap, outlining opportunities to promote investment in high-quality broadband for community anchor institutions (CAIs) and their communities.
Schools, libraries, healthcare providers, and other CAIs provide access to online education, healthcare, research, and other essential services for everyone, especially disadvantaged groups. CAIs can also extend affordable broadband services beyond their four walls by transmitting low-cost or free wireless signals to surrounding homes and businesses.
SHLB’s Roadmap encourages policymakers at the federal and state level, the industry, and anchor institutions to collaborate to connect all CAIs to affordable, multi-gigabit broadband – an essential step in closing the digital divide.
“We are thankful to Congress and the Executive Branch for providing $65 billion in funding for broadband infrastructure for 2023,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition. We are also encouraged by the growing recognition that CAIs are crucial in closing the digital divide. However, many challenges remain, including proposed changes to the E-rate competitive bidding process, flaws in the National Broadband Map, lengthy pole attachment disputes, and court challenges to the Universal Service Fund, to name a few. Our work continues to be founded on the principle that deploying broadband “to and through'' anchor institutions will ensure that no student, patient, or library patron suffers from inadequate internet connectivity.”
The SHLB Coalition will pursue the following policy priorities in 2023:
- Work with state broadband offices and federal agencies to ensure anchor institutions are eligible for broadband upgrades through the BEAD program, the Capital Projects Fund, and other broadband funding programs. SHLB will promote broadband infrastructure investments that favor open access, interconnection, and retail competition.
- Support digital equity efforts at federal, state, and local levels. Digital inclusion efforts would only be possible with CAIs. SHLB will continue to support legislation and programs like the Digital Equity Foundation Act and the Affordable Connectivity Program to help make broadband service affordable in every community across the country.
- Strengthen the E-rate Program. SHLB will advocate for the E-rate eligibility of cybersecurity products and services, oppose the FCC’s proposed competitive bidding portal, and continue to ask the FCC to waive the E-rate cost allocation rule. Regarding the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), SHLB plans to request an extension of the 2023 service delivery dates and continue advocating for long-term solutions once the ECF program expires in 2024.
- Promote improvements in the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program. SHLB will continue to hold regular meetings with USAC and the FCC, submit comments on key proceedings, and highlight telehealth best practices.
- Reinforce research and education networks’ important role in promoting innovation and future-proof networking. SHLB will continue to advocate for federal funds and programs to support higher education institutions in providing more tools and resources to students and learners of all ages, both on campus and at home.
- Promote inclusion of CAIs in broadband mapping. The 2022 FCC’s National Broadband Map effectively leaves out CAIs, making it more difficult to close the digital divide. SHLB will continue to meet with the FCC, the NTIA, and state officials to include CAIs in future mapping efforts and address CAI needs through various broadband funding programs.
- Enforce pole attachment and pole replacement policies. Many families, schools, libraries, and healthcare facilities are located in geographic areas where broadband infrastructure is unavailable or economically unviable. The FCC and states must adopt guidelines to reduce costs and expeditiously resolve issues related to pole attachments.
- Increase competition through licensed, shared, and unlicensed spectrum. Making more spectrum available allows CAIs to choose the best connectivity solution for their unique situations.
- Modernize and strengthen the Universal Service Fund (USF). Rural consumers, students and library patrons, veterans, low-income residents, and communities of color rely upon the Universal Service Fund to obtain affordable broadband connectivity. Broadband policymakers must preserve the USF and expand the base of contributions to ensure its long-term sustainability.
SHLB's 2023 Policy Roadmap can be found here.
The SHLB Coalition is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) public interest organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, D.C., and has a diverse membership of non-commercial and commercial organizations across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.