Players Coalition and FCC Team Up to Help Families Access Much Needed Internet Connection
By Kelvin Beachum, Arizona Cardinals Offensive Tackle and Players Coalition Task Force Member and Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman who believes that the future belongs to the connected. She works to promote greater opportunity, accessibility, and affordability in our communications services in order to ensure that all Americans get a fair shot at 21st century success.
It is no secret that a good education has the power to change a life. It is also no secret that American public schools remain largely separate and unequal. Increasingly, this inequity can hold back educational opportunity. In response to this growing, and problematic trend, two seemingly opposite leaders have come together in their commitment to close the digital divide. We believe that all students should have access.
During the pandemic, the entire world moved online. As a result, the digital divide became a growing chasm. Suddenly, Internet access was not just nice-to-have, it was a must-have for work, healthcare, school, and beyond. For millions of people, including 17 million school children who lack Internet access at home, this shift put them in crisis.
The virtual shift brought us viral images of children doing schoolwork in parking lots just to pick up a wireless signal. We read about parents who struggled to afford the bandwidth needed to have multiple people at home and online at the same time. We talked to doctors who worried about reaching their patients with telehealth because they knew the patients did not have Internet access. We heard stories of front-line workers who struggled to find safe spaces for their children to get online and in remote school so that they could go to work and keep their communities safe and healthy. It’s no wonder then that amidst the worst of the ongoing pandemic, almost one in three Americans worry about paying their broadband bill. This anxiety is especially high amongst Hispanic (54%) and African American (36%) broadband users.
Access to education is a basic human right. We must do better. No one should have to choose between paying for groceries or rent and their Internet bill. No one should have to make the choice between affording access to virtual school or health care or applying for that next job.
To combat this alarming problem, the Players Coalition, a nonprofit founded and led by NFL players, awarded $350,000 in grants last year to connect students who were being locked out of the digital classroom. But this is national problem that demands a national response.
Leaders in Washington have answered that call. The Emergency Broadband Benefit, birthed from the FCC, is a new $3.2 billion effort to help make Internet service more affordable during this pandemic. Through this program, eligible households will be able to receive a $50 discount off of their monthly Internet bill. For those living on Tribal lands, the benefit is $75 a month. Additionally, eligible households are able to receive $100 of the price of a computer, laptop, or tablet.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is by far the largest ever broadband affordability program ever created, and it couldn’t come at a more critical moment. Families in rural, suburban, and urban communities alike are in dire need of this support. We encourage anyone interested to apply as soon as possible so they can get the most from this benefit. More information including ways we can all uplift and share this program in our own communities can be found at www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.
Our government is making its most significant investment ever to help people pay for home Internet service. We need to keep building on this progress with more action until we’ve closed the digital divide and provided sustainable internet access for all. Whether you’re an Acting Chairwoman of the FCC or an Arizona Cardinal, that’s something we can all agree on.
Players Coalition is structured as an independent 501(c)(3) (charity) and 501(c)(4) (advocacy) organization, working with professional athletes, coaches and owners across leagues to improve social justice and racial equality in our country.