UCC Media Justice

UCC Media Justice Update

Posts in category: "broadband for everyone"

Statement on Signing of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry celebrates Congress' passage and the President's signature on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This legislation strengthens the United States' previous down payment to ensure high speed broadband internet is affordable to all people and adopts new programs to fund state and local community efforts working to improve digital adoption.



President Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on November 15, 2021


The $14 Billion invested in affordable broadband services and the expansion of eligibility standards will go a long way to ensuring that every household in the country can purchase the wired broadband necessary to serve a whole household. The Digital Equity Act, which was incorporated into the IIJA, dedicates $360 million in planning and other grants through 2027. This legislation will help ensure critical outreach and support for families and individuals who are purchasing internet services for the first time will be well-supported. The legislation also includes considerable funds to build out infrastructure to communities that do not have access to the Internet at all, or are limited to old, slow connections.

 

These provisions were part of bi-partisan legislation, focusing on the needs of everyday people. When some of our community members are left off modern communications networks, the whole community suffers. Our society suffers when our neighbors can't find jobs, when the kids down the block can't access education, and when the elderly person who is dear to us is left behind. Almost every aspect of our society was moving online and that transition was expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In addition to the important affordability provisions, the IIJA also adopted a historic provision prohibiting discrimination in broadband deployment.

 

Communications is a human right — a tool that connects us to our communities, helps to disclose injustice, and facilitate innumerable aspects of modern life. Since a 1997 General Synod resolution, the United Church of Christ has formally recognized that we need to ensure we do not become a society divided between "information rich" and "information poor," which leaves struggling people without the tools to succeed in modern society. Congress' most recent enactment will move us close to that goal.

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Love Your Neighbor: Get Them Internet!

Boy at computer using mouse.The United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry is participating in a week-long effort to ensure that low-income families and individuals are taking advantage of a new program offering them a $50 discount per month for home internet ($75 on tribal lands). The new program, called the Emergency Broadband Benefit was passed by Congress as part of COVID-19 relief efforts, began offering subsidies in May 2021. While response to the new program has been good, as of now millions of eligible people are leaving this money on the table. The faith community can be a critical player to meet this need as our communities are experts on one-on-one outreach. UCC offered a webinar describing the program, a recording and the slides are available.

 

The United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry is distributing a one-page flyer (also in Spanish) that can be easily used to get the word out to families who are not online. UCC churches, individual people of faith, and anyone who cares can use the flyer.

 

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program has wide eligibility:

  • Income-based federal benefits like SNAP (food stamps), SSI, federal public housing assistance or Medicaid;
  • Free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast; Received a federal Pell Grant during the current school year;
  • Substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020;
  • And more…. check out out ebbhelp.org or in Spanish at ebbhelp.org/es/

People can apply several ways:

  • Call the FCC at 833–511–0311 or connect online with the Federal Communications Commission at GetEmergencyBroadband.org; or
  • Work with your local internet company to apply — major companies like Comcast, Charter (Spectrum), AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are participating and can help you get connected. Ask your local company.

Once a household successfully applies, the consumer pays the discounted price (sometimes free) and the federal funds go directly to the company to offset the difference.

UCC churches, conferences, associations and individual members, along with our faith-based and humanitarian partners should:

  1. Share copies of the flyer via any direct service project or partners serving low-income people.
  • Run a soup kitchen? Make copies and distribute flyers.
  • Volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter? Bring copies of the flyer to distribute.
  • Volunteering at a community event? Bring flyers and help people read them.
  • If someone is interested after seeing the flyer, use your phone to connect to these simple easy-to-use web sites, or help them call the toll free number to learn more and apply.
  1. Individuals can share flyers with neighbors, or post the flyer on local community bulletin boards, bring copies with them when they volunteer or to Sunday services or Sunday school families.

 

The flyers include phone numbers to reach government staff who can help individuals to sign up and mobile friendly web pages which explain eligibility in an easy-to-understand format.

The collaborative outreach week is occurring September 30 through October 1, but the effort to sign people up for the program will continue throughout the fall.

UCC’s media justice ministry held a short webinar to describe the program and answer questions, a recording and the slides are available.

Cheryl A. Leanza, the leader of UCC’s media justice work said, “I am so pleased that the work we did advocating for this program in Washington, DC bore fruit. I am hopeful our faith communities can get this critical assistance into the homes of people who need it.”

 

Take action:

If you take action, share via the hashtag #GetConnectedEBB and #UCCMediaJustice

The United Church of Christ is a faith community rooted in justice. It established the Office of Communication, Inc. in 1959 as its ministry working to create just and equitable communications structures that give meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas. Learn more about UCC’s media justice ministry at www.uccmediajustice.org.

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Civil rights & non-profits seek help for low-income consumers

United Church of Christ, OC Inc., the National Consumer Law Center and the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council collaborated to submit a letter asking the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to assist low-income consumers. Specifically, the letter asks the FCC to:

  • Extend COVID-related waivers through the end of the year;

  • Restore Lifeline voice support to the $9.25/month subsidy;

  • Freeze the Lifeline minimum service standards for broadband service until the FCC completes a pending study on the program or increases the existing Lifeline benefit amount.

The letter was signed by a diverse array of civil rights, anti-poverty, consumer, labor, faith and technology rights organizations, specifically:

Access Humboldt
Black Female Founders (#BFF)
Center for Rural Strategies
Common Sense Media
Communications Workers of America
Dialogue on Diversity, Inc.
Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP)
Japanese American Citizens League
LGBT Technology Partnership
MediaJustice
Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)
NAACP
National Blacks In Government, Inc.
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients
National Digital Inclusion Alliance
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Organization of Black County Officials (NOBCO)
National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women
New America's Open Technology Institute
Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, on behalf of our low income clients
Public Knowledge
Florida State Senator Audrey Gibson, Senate Democratic Leader
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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HEROES Act a Victory for the Right2Connect!

The new HEROES Act released today, H.R. 6800, contains an incredible commitment to the communications rights of all people. The consumer protection and telecommunications provisions championed by Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Pallone recognize that the right of all people in the U.S. to connect with each other during the novel coronavirus pandemic is not only a matter of mental health and economic survival, it is a matter of life and death. 

If all people, including low-income people, can afford high quality broadband, their lives can continue, to some degree, through personal connections, education, jobs, obtaining access to emergency benefits while they shelter in place to stop the spread of the virus.  If frontline low-income workers can rely on their mobile phones, they can fill grocery orders, keep our hospitals clean and continue to act as our emergency responders in this time of need.  If families can reach their incarcerated loved ones at fair rates, they can monitor their health and welfare and ensure they receive access to essential care given the horrific spread of COVID-19 among people in jail, prison or detention.  The HERO Act's communications provisions are essential for meeting these emergency needs. 

 

These proposals, combined with provisions that end cut-offs of Internet services, codify the Federal Communications Commission Keep Americans Connected Pledge and establish limits on price gouging make this legislation an impressive package that will establish secure rights to affordable communications. Congress should move quickly to adopt them into law.

 

"Congress should move quickly to adopt the communications provisions of the HEROES Act into law," said Cheryl A. Leanza, UCC OC Inc.'s policy advisor, "being without the Internet right now is not just a digital divide, it is a digital chasm and life and death hangs in the balance. If adopted, these proposals would ensure that all people, no matter their income level or status will have the digital tools they need to participate safely in civic and economic life."

 

To read more about the #right2connect, see The Right to Connect: Life or Death Right Now.


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Affordable Communications for Low-Income People Under Threat -- AGAIN

One of our main advocacy tasks at OC Inc. is working with our allies to protect and enhance the incredible Lifeline program, which offers a subsidy to low-income households who qualify.  In some cases, the $9.25 monthly subsidy is enough to pay for a free mobile phone. 

Unfortunately the current Federal Communications Commission has set forth a series of unhelpful and paternalistic proposals that would harm Lifeline and make it more difficult for eligible families to use it.  We joined with the National Consumer Law Center to file comments last month and yesterday with our allies under the banner of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to push back against these destructive ideas.  At least we are gratified to know that these proposals received almost no support in the record before the FCC.  The FCC should not be able to adopt these ideas, but the threat of their implementation is destabilizing the program and the previous decisions the FCC adopted are hurting the chances for families to get access to affordable communications.

Learn more and join the coalition's efforts at www.savelifeline.org

Since a 1997 General Synod resolution, the United Church of Christ has formally recognized that we need to ensure we do not become a society divided between "information rich" and "information poor," which leaves struggling people without the tools to succeed in modern society.   

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