“This legislation would create a task force that would formulate comprehensive policy recommendations on how the District of Columbia can set up free public wireless internet.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Pablo Raw

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“Free Wi-Fi For All of DC

Brandon Todd
Council of the District of Columbia, Ward-4
Chair, Committee on Government Operations

Today, I will be introducing the Wi-Fi Task Force Act of 2017. This bill would create a task force to provide comprehensive policy recommendations on how the District can efficiently provide free wireless internet access thru the construction and operation of a municipality broadband network. Communities across the United States are already successfully operating municipal broadband networks and it is time for the District to foster the development of advanced broadband facilities and services for our communities, residents and visitors.

The District government has forged ahead with inclusive and diverse policies such as increasing the living wage, the minimum wage and expanding the Marion Barry Summer Youth Program with the aim to improve income equality for all District residents. A municipal broadband network providing free wireless internet to the entire District is the next step.

The digital divide is an economic divide. Our lower income citizens unable to afford internet access are becoming more vulnerable. Job postings and job applications are online now. Eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies only accept job applications online. Our “disconnected” students are at a disadvantage. Homework, study guides, research tools, college scholarships and applications, financial aid applications, and class registration are online now. A municipal broadband network will help bridge the gap for our lower income residents.

Free wireless internet in the District will also boost our economy and be valuable for our tourists. Research shows that customers spend more money when free wi-fi is available. For our locally owned businesses, that can mean increased revenue. For tourists, free wi-fi helps them discover a great restaurant, find museum hours, and navigate the best transportation options for their travel around the District.

President Obama’s ConnectHome and the FCC’s Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan program have already allotted billions of dollars towards providing internet access to all Americans. Access to federal funding can lower the financial burden on the District’s pursuit to provide high speed broadband to all its residents.

The internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and essential to everyday life. Broadband access for all our citizens, regardless of their income or which ward they reside in, is vital to eliminating the digital divide and the economic divide. The New Year brings new opportunities and the Wi-Fi Task Force Act of 2017 is an opportunity to allow all Washingtonians to prosper.”

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