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Bridging Georgia's Digital Divide: A Blueprint for Connectivity and Inclusion

Posted on 05/15/24

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ATLANTA, Georgia-- Georgia has a historic opportunity to expand access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to everyone in the state, no matter where they live or their circumstances.

Access, however, depends on more than wires, poles, and other pieces of infrastructure. It also depends on making sure that internet service is affordable, and that all Georgians have the tools and the skills to use it.

We are proud to announce that Georgia just had its digital connectivity plan approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The approval is the first step in unlocking federal funding that can help underserved communities – including older Georgians, veterans, low-income families, tribal communities, people living in rural areas and others – to connect to the internet.

The plan was developed after robust collaboration with stakeholders, partner organizations and public participation. Through that work, the Georgia Technology Authority found that while the state has made significant strides in recent years to close digital gaps, it continues to face numerous challenges, especially in rural areas.

They found the most significant barrier to digital connectivity in Georgia is the lack of physical infrastructure for delivering broadband services. They also found that many Georgians struggle to afford access to the internet and devices and some residents lack foundational digital skills to successfully navigate being online.

AARP Georgia, on behalf of our more than 1 million members, applauds the approval of our state’s plan to expand high-speed internet access and adoption across the state. High-speed internet is not a luxury. It is a necessity for older Georgians. Better connectivity allows them to navigate online government services, participate in virtual medical services, find and maintain employment, meet daily needs, and connect socially.

In short, it will improve the quality of life and help adults 50+ safely age in place.
This plan is Georgia’s blueprint to tear down the digital divide in the state. There are several key strategies that have been identified to reduce barriers to internet access. Through implementation, Georgia will pursue efforts to improve overall broadband availability, reliability, affordability, digital skills, device access, and sustain these efforts over time. This is no small task.

While putting this comprehensive plan together is a commendable start, there is still much work ahead of us. AARP Georgia looks forward to working with the Georgia Technology Authority and other key stakeholders toward successful implementation of this plan. Like other traditionally underserved groups, too many older adults have been left behind for too long.

We must also maintain our focus on ensuring that internet is affordable. As Georgia’s plan demonstrates, wires alone can’t solve the problem of connectivity, which is why AARP remains committed to the continuation of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides direct support to Georgians to help them afford internet service.

Eligible households can receive a benefit that provides a $30-$75 per month discount on the cost of high-speed internet. For many families, that can cover the entire cost of their service. There are over 720,000 Georgia households on the Affordable Connectivity Program and over 44% of these are headed by a resident 50 or older.

Right now, the program is at risk of running out of money in May. As Georgia – working in collaboration with regional and local partners – works to close the digital divide, it’s our hope that Congress will maintain this critical program. Older adults in Georgia are counting on action.

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