At first blush I thought Federal Communications Commission Chairman Genachowski was starting the FCC’s first reality show. What he announced late last week was a competition to see which eligible telecommunications carriers could identify effective approaches to increasing broadband adoption and retention by low income consumers. At stake is a pot of subsidies worth $25 million with the winners receiving subsidies of up to $100,000 a year for three years to implement their broadband project.
The FCC made it a point that at least one of the submitted projects should address broadband adoption and retention on Tribal Lands. The FCC did not make that point for any of the U.S. insular territories.
It’s too bad. The FCC consistently talks about how broadband can spur economic development and job growth. It goes on and on about robust technology and job creating innovation, but when it comes to delivering subsidies to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the territory gets ignored.
If the FCC is interested in low income citizens adopting broadband, then the USVI provides an ideal laboratory. According to the U.S.V.I. Bureau of Economic Research, 11% of households in the U.S. Virgin Islands live on less than $10,000 a year. One-half of households in the U.S.V.I. live on less than $35,000 a year. Twenty-five percent of Virgin Islanders lived in poverty in 2008.
What is even more unbearable are children living in poverty. Twenty-three percent of families in the U.S.V.I. or 6,206 families were living in poverty, most of them with children in the household. Twenty-four percent of families with related children under the age of 18 live in poverty. Thirty-four percent of families headed by a female live in poverty in the U.S.V.I.
I guess America’s Paradise is just a vacation spot for the FCC. When it comes to making us a part of the policy landscape, it’s not a part of the FCC’s reality.