The pandemic put broadband in a new light. Residents nationwide were confronted with illustrations of why high-speed internet, digital literacy, and access to a computing device are critical. They have a direct impact on educational outcomes, economic mobility, public health and well-being, civic engagement, and government’s ability to function. While the cost of disconnectedness has an undeniably disparate effect on the most under-resourced households, there is a lesser-known impact in their communities as well as an aggregate cost nationwide.

This three-part study group will explore how digital inequities can sabotage or bolster government service delivery, workforce development goals, and aspirations for a multi-racial and multi-cultural democracy. For instance, in the age of COVID, getting information about government service programs, participating in hearings, finding tax forms, driver’s license registration, and more all require engagement online. Goals to prepare residents for high-skilled careers rely on hybrid training models in addition to the capability to work from home. Likewise, digital natives control which voices and narratives are used to shape our democracy.

This three-part series will provide an overview of the history of broadband regulation in the US and showcase three distinct ways that broadband access and adoption have become an integral part of how Americans work, live, and experience one another.

#1: Technology Is an Indispensable Tool for Government Service Delivery

  • Norms in telephone and media regulation have resurfaced in the broadband landscape.
  • The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provides a roadmap for ubiquitous connectivity.
  • Widespread connectivity improves the effectiveness of government service programs.

#2: The Economic Impact of Digital Inequities Goes Beyond Geographic Borders.

  • Why are states and municipalities treating digital inequities as an economic issue?
  • The color and condition of the digital divide change who has access to high-skilled and high-paying careers versus jobs.
  • Could the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act reverse trends related to who is locked out of an increasingly digital workforce?

#3: How Does Widespread Connectivity Support a Multi-Racial and Multicultural Democracy?

  • Technology provides new platforms for disenfranchised populations to tell their own stories in their own words.
  • The public square has migrated online. Those with reliable access and the tools to connect can organize, build movements, demand change, and hold others accountable instantaneously.
  • Disconnected populations have limited access to information. Meanwhile, those who are connected have direct access to elected officials, town hall meetings, and other public for a where decisions that shape our democracy are made.


Francella Ochillo is Executive Director of Next Century Cities, a nonprofit that focuses on expanding high-speed broadband connectivity across the U.S. She is an attorney and digital rights advocate whose work underscores how widespread broadband adoption can improve educational outcomes, economic mobility, the ability to age in place, and pathways for participating in our democracy. 

Advocating for public interest on a variety of technology and telecommunications issues, Francella provides expertise on how government policies and industry practices affect underrepresented populations. As a Technology and Public Purpose Fellow, Francella will focus on how inadequate access to technology reinforces cycles of poverty and the cost of inaction on closing the digital divide. Additionally, her work will explore how second class digital citizenship impacts privacy rights in the digital ecosystem. 

A member of the District of Columbia Bar and Federal Communications Bar Association, Francella has served on FCC working groups, provided Congressional testimony, and advocated before various regulatory bodies. She earned her Juris Doctor from UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.