Broadband for All with CWA

The Digital Divide is a Huge Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic made clear what CWA members have known for years: Our Internet infrastructure and workers who maintain that infrastructure are critical and we must expand broadband access. 

If broadband access was a problem before 2020, the pandemic turned it into a crisis. As everything from school to telehealth to non-essential work moved online, digital life became near-inaccessible to anyone whose connection couldn’t support a Zoom call. Some school districts started providing Wi-Fi hotspots to students without a reliable home connection. In other districts, kids set up in McDonald’s parking lots just to get a reliable enough signal to do their homework. After years of slowly widening, the broadband gap became impossible to ignore.

We also know that communities that traditionally get left behind, both in urban and rural areas, because they are low-income, black, and brown communities, tend to get disproportionally left behind when it comes to broadband access. We know that ISPs cherrypick where they want to build out based on profitability rather than aiming to serve the public. We call this digital redlining or digital discrimination. Zipcode and income should not determine whether you have access to high-speed fiber broadband or not.

We Need Real World Solutions That Deliver

In the past, internet service providers who have taken federal funds failed to deliver on their promises of delivering service to areas that need it, and often outsourcing the construction work to low-wage and low-quality contractors who cut corners, risking safety and quality.

That is why we need strong public oversight over these dollars to ensure high-speed, quality broadband is being delivered to communities most in need, which includes both rural and urban parts of our states

Broadband is a necessity and in the 21st century, it must be a right, not a luxury, not a privilege. Yet, too many Americans lack access, or cannot afford high-speed internet. 

CWA has been at the forefront fighting for high-speed broadband internet that is accessible and affordable. CWA members and other telecommunications workers are essential and have been keeping our country's broadband networks up and running throughout the pandemic. 

Learn More About CWA's Solutions for Universal Broadband for All on This Page

  • Federal Broadband Priorities
  • Understanding the Challenges Around Municipal Broadband
  • CWA's Model Labor Standards for State Level Broadband Policies
  • Information About Emergency Broadband Benefits

Federal Broadband Priorities

Today, voice and data over broadband have become dominant forms of communication, but there is no legislated universal service requirement in place. Policymakers have assumed that competition would spur communications companies to deploy broadband widely and give customers not just one but competing choices. Competition has failed to deliver universal, affordable access, and today CWA is advocating for federal funding to close the Digital Divide by subsidizing deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas, with strong accountability requirements attached to that funding, including labor standards.

CWA is also advancing common-sense legislation at the state level to regulate broadband under public utility commission authority so our communities aren’t left without recourse when broadband providers fail to deliver promised service.

Understanding the Challenges Around Municipal Broadband

Municipal or public broadband can mean a lot of things.  By one count, there are 331 municipal broadband networks in the US of various types including just for businesses and wholesale dark fiber, while another source identifies 63 municipal networks that provide fiber-to-the-home to most residents. Most municipally-owned and -operated networks are in places with municipally-owned and operated electric utilities, in small cities or towns, and approximately 30% serve business customers only. There are only a small number of solid success stories, while most of these ventures have resulted in failure and squandered public dollars. 

We think there needs to be a case-by-case approach to determine whether municipal broadband makes sense.

  • Cost: How much does it cost for a municipality to take on build out? Where will the capital funds come from?

  • Workforce: Who will build it? Who will operate it? Where will the workforce come from?

  • Consumers: Who will use the service?

  • Community: Is this the right solution for this particular community?

  • Labor Protections: Depends on local, state or federal. 

  • Incumbent Workforce Perspective: What is the perspective of the workforce in the area?

CWA's Model Labor Standards for State Level Broadband Policies

The best way to ensure publicly-funded broadband deployment supports good jobs and high-quality work is to give preference to high-road employers. Under this approach, there would be points awarded to applicants who commit to:

  • Locally-based workforce that supports job pipelines for traditionally marginalized

  • communities;

  • Appropriate safety training and safety practices;

  • Professional certifications and/or in-house training to ensure that deployment is done at a high standard;

  • No recent violations of labor law.

CWA’s State-Level Regulatory Bill: The Broadband Resiliency, Public Safety and Quality Act

Information About Emergency Broadband Benefits

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, a temporary service to help make Internet service more affordable. We wanted to make sure you knew about this new federal benefit program that can help families and households in your area stay connected.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband service;

  • Up to $75/month discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands; and

  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider if the household contributes more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

MATERIALS ABOUT THE EBB

Please find a flyer/poster in English and Spanish linked about the program to share with your constituents.

Check out www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit for a Consumer FAQ and other program resources. Please help spread the word about this important program!