On Monday, January 25, our Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Cox-Roman submitted the following comment to the FCC:
“The people HelpAge USA serves have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization, women and men over 60 years of age account for more than 95 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. Older Americans are rightly among the first in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines. But nearly 8 million of them live at or below the poverty level. Consequently, many cannot afford high-speed Internet service. As the federal government and the states roll out the COVID-19 vaccine, information and sign-up forms are largely being provided online. Even when calling for an appointment is an option, it is often only possible to find the number using the Internet. Thus, as our country has gone virtual, older Americans with no access to reliable, affordable broadband are being left behind.”
In response to the FCC’s request for guidance, HelpAge USA urges the following actions be taken to ensure that older low-income Americans have the right to broadband access:
- Prioritize inclusion of eligible low-income adults 60+ years of age and their households and make it as simple as possible for them to receive assistance.
- Guarantee that the program applies to a wide range of connected devices and associated customer premises equipment, including the monthly rental cost of modems and routers, VPN equipment, and VSAT dishes and antennae.
- Require participating providers to publicize – and take your own steps to promote – the availability of this assistance through community-level organizations that are likely to serve older adults, including senior centers, Meals on Wheels, libraries, churches, food banks, grocery stores, post offices, and pharmacies.
- Obligate participating providers to create and maintain programs that assist older people in their adoption of broadband Internet and in the operation and use of connected devices and associated equipment.
We look forward to hearing back from and working with the FCC on ensuring the digital inclusion of older Americans through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. You can download our full letter here.