Dr. Gary K. Michelson is calling on the State of California to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to generate, via crowdsourcing, ideas and innovative solutions that will provide high-speed internet access for every Californian and ultimately close the so-called “digital divide,” the disparity between individuals who have easy access to high-speed internet connections and those who do not.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of closing the divide. Images on the news and elsewhere of school students doing their homework in parking lots so they have a reliable internet signal was a stark highlight of the problem the digital divide presents.
Reliable internet access has never been more important to the economy. Children of all ages rely on internet access for online learning, adults need it to effectively work from home, and unemployed individuals need it to find jobs. Presently, there is minimal competition among broadband providers. More competition may close the digital divide. The RFP, which would also be a Request for Innovation (RFI), would open the industry to greater competition, thus decreasing supernormal profits and minimizing the deadweight loss that currently exists in the market while simultaneously furthering digital equity.