Internet should be accessible and affordable

March 19, 2024

Delaware has a historic opportunity to expand access to reliable, high-speed internet to everyone in the state, no matter where they live or their circumstances.

Access, however, depends on more than wires, poles and other pieces of infrastructure. It also depends on making sure that internet service is affordable, and that all Delawareans have the tools and the skills to use it.

I’m proud to say that Delaware is one of the first states in the country to have its digital equity plan approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The approval is the first step in unlocking federal funding that can help underserved communities – including older Delawareans, veterans, low-income families, tribal communities, people living in rural areas and others – to connect to the internet.

The plan was developed after intense collaboration with stakeholders, partner organizations and public participation, including a statewide survey. Through that work, the Delaware Broadband Office found that lack of broadband availability acts as a significant barrier to achieving digital equity, especially in rural areas. They found that low-income households struggle to afford broadband services, devices and technical support. And they found that aging individuals and other underserved populations lack digital skills, including to protect security and privacy.

AARP Delaware, on behalf of our 190,000 members in the state, applauds the approval of our state’s plan to expand high-speed internet access and adoption across our state. High-speed internet is not a luxury; it is a necessity for older Delawareans. Better connectivity allows more older adults to navigate online government services, participate in virtual medical services, find and maintain employment, meet daily needs and connect socially. In short, it will improve the quality of life and help older adults age in place safely.

This plan is Delaware’s blueprint to tear down the digital divide in our state. There are several key strategies that have been identified to reduce barriers to internet access.

The Delaware Broadband Office will continue to improve access to broadband through grant funding for local projects. The Broadband Office will also maintain a sharp focus on affordability, ensuring that Delawareans have a budget-friendly option that they can afford for connecting. The plan also calls for collaboration with libraries, community centers and schools to provide free or low-cost digital skills training workshops, using volunteers such as tech-savvy community members, and local businesses and nonprofits.

While putting this comprehensive plan together is a commendable start, there is much work ahead of us. AARP Delaware looks forward to working with the Delaware Broadband Office and other key stakeholders toward successful implementation of this plan.

We must also maintain our focus on ensuring that internet is affordable. As Delaware’s plan demonstrates, wires alone can’t solve the problem of connectivity, which is why AARP remains committed to the continuation of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides direct support to Delawareans to help them afford internet service.

Eligible households can receive a benefit that provides a $30 to $75 per month discount on the cost of quality internet. For many families, that can cover the entire cost of their service.

Right now, the program is at risk of running out of money in April. As Delaware – working in collaboration with regional and tribal partners – works to close the digital divide, it’s our hope that Congress will maintain this critical program. Older adults in Delaware are counting on action.

Wendell Alfred is the state president for AARP Delaware.
  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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