Giving Compass' Take:

• The authors at Brookings discuss how broadband is essential infrastructure, and regulation and public policy should support every American community having equitable access to broadband and the skills necessary to use it.

• How can funders work to close the gap in broadband? Where are the gaps in your community? 

• Read more about the importance of broadband in America. 

Two decades into the new millennium, the digitalization of American life is no longer striking—it is ordinary. Every industry relies on computing, cloud storage, or other digital equipment to sell goods and services. Employers increasingly demand more advanced digital skills from the labor force. Meanwhile, people’s individual lives often orbit around the internet, whether at home, at work, or on the move. Even decades-old infrastructure—from roads and rails to water pipes and the energy grid—now relies on digital equipment for construction, operation, and modernization.

Broadband is so influential on society that we would now call it essential infrastructure. That means affordable subscription prices, universal access to connected devices, and a population equipped with digital skills are now vital characteristics of a healthy neighborhood, city, state, or country. Broadband’s applications are so far-reaching that these physical networks directly and indirectly affect a wide range of conditions that impact health and life outcomes, known as social determinants of health (SDOH).

Despite its importance, broadband is still far from ubiquitous. Millions of households do not have access to high-speed wireline or wireless services, and many more lack the digital skills or income to use online services. These gaps persist across all kinds of places: in every single state, regardless of density levels, from small towns to urban neighborhoods, and among demographic groups of all races, educational attainments, and income levels.

Read the full article about equitable broadband by Adie Tomer, Lara Fishbane, Angela Siefer, and Bill Callahan at Brookings.