CWA News

Building Out Broadband and Closing the Digital Divide

Fighting for the Middle Class

Throughout the pandemic, CWA members have been on the front lines, keeping essential communications services running. With increased demand for high speed internet for school, work, telemedicine, and government services one thing has become very clear – too many Americans still do not have access to affordable, reliable broadband.

A report published last year by CWA and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance revealed that AT&T, once the leader in universal service, has made fiber-to-the-home available for fewer than one-third of the households in its 21-state network. The pandemic underscored companies’ failure to provide affordable access to broadband for all.

As President Shelton noted recently when he testified before Congress on the issue, children shouldn't have to sit in a McDonald’s parking lot using the free wifi to do their homework.

CWA members are urging Congress to pass an infrastructure bill to expand broadband access and create and protect good jobs, as President Biden has laid out in his plan to build back better. CWA supports a Democratic infrastructure package that includes $80 billion in funding for broadband deployment and standards to create and protect good jobs and prohibit the outsourcing of work to contractors to circumvent collective bargaining agreements.

CWA aims to address the root causes of the digital divide, which lie in deregulation and the lack of investment from the private sector. In recent years, instead of investing to ensure that every American has high quality service, telecom executives have only invested in wealthier areas in order to maximize profit to boost stock prices. Companies have cut jobs and outsourced core functions to contractors, losing the expertise of tens of thousands of highly trained CWA members.

One reason executives have been able to leave behind so many communities is the near-total deregulation in the telecommunications industry and the exclusion of broadband from the rules and standards that used to apply to phone networks. CWA members are fighting back. In Connecticut, Colorado, Michigan, New York, West Virginia, and other states, we are lobbying to pass state legislation to regulate broadband and VOIP under state public utility commission (PUC) authority, which would help strengthen broadband network resiliency, protect consumers, and ensure public safety.

"In New York, CWA members are putting pressure on the state and local government to make sure we're expanding affordable, high-speed, and reliable broadband access to all New Yorkers, while maintaining good union jobs in the industry," said CWA Local 1120 member Rob Pinto. "As union members, we know that providing stable, family-supporting jobs for highly-skilled workers like broadband techs is the best investment a company can make. Members of Local 1120 are looking forward to continuing this advocacy work in 2021."

Learn more at speedmatters.org/broadband and keep up with the latest on CWA's work to expand broadband access by signing up for the SpeedMatters newsletter at speedmatters.org/connect.