May 22, 2015
The final day of the 2015 SHLB Coalition Annual Conference opened with a presentation by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Attendees of the SHLB Coalition, a non-profit, advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-capacity broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities, greeted Clyburn with enthusiasm.
Clyburn started her talk by saying that as the daughter of a librarian she was particularly grateful for the work SHLB attendees do. Asserting just how important it is that we continue to work together to move everyone out of “digital darkness” and into full societal participation, Clyburn said technology is the greatest equalizer of our time.
After reviewing progress that’s been made in this space thus far, including the modernization of e-rate, Clyburn then cautioned the crowd against resting on their laurels –- as the E-rate reforms represent only one piece of the universal access broadband puzzle.
With a presentation titled “Bridging the Affordability Gap” featuring a #WeCannotWait hashtag, Clyburn asserted that we must build a future-proof bridge that connects, empowers and enables independence. Clyburn went on to say that if done correctly Lifeline reform could help build this bridge.
Reminding the audience that the Lifeline program was established 30 years ago and only supports voice, Clyburn called for its modernization in the digital age. Outlining plans she called “ambitious but achievable” Clyburn suggested several modernizations to Lifeline including:
• Providers not being responsible for determining program eligibility
• Robust minimum standards
• Metrics to track progress
• A $9.25 subsidy
With a passionate call to help our neighbors who “are stuck in that digital darkness” Clyburn declared that “this is a problem we can solve together.” The willing and eager SHLB crowd, who serve as catalysts for connectivity in our communities, then gave her a standing ovation to show their support.