Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has announced the Digital Equity Act of 2019, to continue the work that the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP, 2009-2015) began, furthering access to broadband internet and the tools and resources needed for citizens to enhance their personal, professional and entrepreneurial prospects through technology.
The United States Virgin Islands is home to one of the networks created through BTOP grants, the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, Inc. As in many states, there is financial difficulty of internet providers delivering increased speeds through the “last mile” to their customers, and an ongoing need for access to digital training, computers and internet for the disadvantaged.
On her congressional website, Sen. Murray states that reliable high speed internet access has become such an essential part of our everyday lives, that she was compelled to petition for renewed commitment from the federal government in assisting states and territories to address an ongoing digital divide.
The measure currently enjoys support from co-sponsors Sen. King, Angus S., Jr. [I-ME], Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI], Sen. Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI], Sen. Smith, Tina [D-MN], Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN], Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT], Sen. Van Hollen, Chris [D-MD], Sen. Peters, Gary C. [D-MI], Sen. Reed, Jack [D-RI], Sen. Warren, Elizabeth [D-MA], and Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR] and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
The Digital Equity Act is being soundly endorsed by dozens of entities, including Alliance for Community Media, American Library Association, Center for Law and Social Policy, Competitive Carriers Association, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, National Congress of American Indians, Urban Libraries Council and National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
Citizens in U.S. territories and states are urged to contact their Congressional representatives regarding the Digital Equity Act; when discussing online use the hashtag #DigitalEquityNow. Recommended reading is the 2018 book by Susan Crawford entitled “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution – and Why America Might Miss It”.