In 2022, Americans rely on internet access to carry out an incredible number of everyday tasks – whether it’s doing their job, completing a homework assignment, getting news, shopping, finding a doctor, or just keeping in touch with family and loved ones. In many ways, the ability to easily use the internet from home is an economic necessity for the 21st century.
And yet, there are still 707,000 Floridians (and more than 30 million Americans) who lack broadband access. That’s roughly three percent of the state’s population who remain excluded from a crucial part of modern life, simply because of where they live. And location isn’t the only barrier to internet access – just 72.7% of Floridians are currently signed up for home internet service. Without internet access, more than one in four Florida residents are cut off from economic opportunity, critical information, and basic services that many of us take for granted. That is a massive chunk of Floridians for whom it is that much more difficult to look for work, find housing, manage their finances, or receive life-saving information at the click of a button.
That’s why President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is making it a priority to finally close our state’s digital divide by devoting $100 million to ensuring that a reliable, stable internet connection is accessible and affordable for everyone in Florida.
In particular, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will focus on creating the infrastructure required to connect Florida’s rural communities – without the exorbitant costs that have previously been associated with bringing a high-speed broadband connection to those areas. That includes building and deploying brand new network infrastructure and investing in accurate data collection to determine which areas lack service.
But a lack of internet access isn’t just a rural problem – it also affects those who live in our largest cities. In Miami, for example, a whopping 32.2% of households don’t have internet access. That’s why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is pairing these basic infrastructure investments with a $14 billion nationwide Affordable Connectivity Program that will make six million Floridians, or 30% of the population, eligible to receive $30 per month to pay internet bills.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes funding dedicated to improving access and digital literacy for senior citizens and other underserved groups. By investing in and empowering frontline community leaders to reach out to their own communities, we stand a much better chance of making sure everyone will have ample opportunity to get online in a way that works for them.
Despite the obvious economic and social benefits of universal broadband access, every single Florida Republican in Congress voted against connecting more Floridians to the internet. And it should also come as little surprise that Governor DeSantis vehemently opposed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the historic investment it will make toward connecting Florida with the world.