FCC chairwoman promotes equity in internet access in Detroit

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Detroit – Federal, state and local leaders met Monday to discuss improving digital equity in Detroit, where much of the population remains offline.

In 2019, according to the latest available data, almost 70% of Detroit students did not have internet access at home. Census data shows one in four Detroit residents have no access to their homes, U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence said.

“I’m working with this amazing team to bridge this digital divide in Congress. Most recently, we passed and signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which includes $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to high-speed internet. reliable,” the Southfield Democrat said. “Across the country, internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity that is essential to us here, locally and nationally.”

The roundtable held at Cass Technical High School in Detroit included Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, Detroit Director of Digital Inclusion Joshua Edmonds, educators and Detroit Public School Community District students. Their discussion focused on Affordable Internet Access and the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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► For subscribers: Lack of high-speed internet leaves rural Michigan students disconnected from learning

The Affordable Connectivity Program builds on the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which began last year by providing a $50-a-month grant that 82,000 Detroit households have benefited from, the inclusion manager said Detroit digital, Joshua Edmonds. The Emergency Connectivity Fund, a $7.17 billion program, is using federal funds from the U.S. Bailout Act to help schools and libraries during the pandemic.

The city is considering the Hope Village neighborhood to build and deploy an open-access fiber network after 6,700 residents suffered a 45-day internet outage last year.

“It’s a pilot project but at the same time, as we get these bigger funds, we hope to expand it to other parts of the city that have seen historic divestment and do it in the name of equity. digital where our profit is an audience good,” Edmonds said.

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Edmonds said Osborn’s neighborhood could be next; however, this is dependent on continued state funding.

Rosenworcel said that to address the digital divide, they must create affordability and ensure Michigan’s infrastructure is able to deliver from city residents to rural residents.

“We’re going to use this pandemic and this crisis to address that,” Rosenworcel said of Detroit’s lack of access. “We have more programs and coordination than we have ever had before and more commitment. I saw that today and I have eager optimism right now that we will close the digital divide. “

The discussion came after President Joe Biden announced a plan earlier this month to expand access to affordable high-speed internet. The administration secured commitments from major internet service providers to “either increase speeds or reduce prices, ensuring that they all provide eligible households with high-speed, high-quality internet packages for maximum $30/month”.

More than 1,300 providers participate in the Affordable Connectivity program, including 90 in Michigan.

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Based on the 2020 mapping, 220,000 homes across the state still do not have broadband service.

Households are eligible for the program based on their income or participation in federal programs, such as Pell Grants, Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income. Agencies running these programs will coordinate their efforts to reach eligible households. The Biden administration is working with state officials to text eligible households in Michigan as well as Philadelphia, Mesa, Arizona, New York and Massachusetts.

Gilchrist said of Michigan’s $250 million infrastructure plan, which was signed earlier this year, that a fraction of it commits to developing more connectivity in targeted areas to support the ‘Internet access. It includes a $5.2 million mapping project to determine where to deploy the remedies.

“This will support and build more neighborhood infrastructure to meet the needs of people living in cities, suburbs and rural communities,” Gilchrist said.

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Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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