Any discussion about expanded broadband must recognize that the trends of improved internet access and increased smartphone adoption have coincided with growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. Unfortunately, the small towns where many LGBTQ+ people are choosing to call home in greater numbers are also those that suffer from a lack of access to reliable internet connectivity.
For LGBTQ+ people, internet access supports vital health, educational, and community resources, as well as opportunities to connect with one another in a safe environment. Research has found that members of our community are returning and staying in rural America. That is one of the reasons why LGBT Tech launched the PowerOn program which utilizes a national network of community centers helping thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals across the country to ensure equal access to technology, connectivity, and community resources. The program helps disadvantaged youth and isolated seniors, many of which are living in rural and under-served areas, stay connected.
As communities across the country work to combat the spread of COVID-19, many LGBTQ+ Americans find themselves entering a period of greater uncertainty and prolonged physical distancing; making broadband connectivity more important than ever before. That is why we applaud the Senate Commerce Committee’s efforts to make broadband connectivity a central part of the ongoing national conversation about how we best prepare all of our communities to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19.
In addition, we take this opportunity to highlight the importance of including funds for broadband as part of any future stimulus bill. Any future stimulus bill must include broadband subsidies for low income Americans including the recently unemployed and those rural communities struck the hardest by the virus; commit funds for increased broadband deployment to further assist the migration of health care and telehealth and other essential services (such as distance learning) to online platforms; and encourage the rapid build out of broadband infrastructure to those under-served areas that need it the most. We welcome all legislative efforts to expand broadband infrastructure to under-served areas across the country.