With twenty-three million Americans currently living without access to the internet, urgent action is needed to ensure equitable and inclusive access to the technology, connectivity, education, and skills needed to thrive in today’s digitally driven world.
Such digital access has become a basic human right. It’s vital to living, working, and learning today. But the gap between those who have access to reliable, affordable internet service and those who don’t is staggering. This ‘digital divide’ is complex and inequitable. It dissimilarly affects different socioeconomic, underserved communities, and geographies.
As the world’s digital infrastructure company, we feel strongly that Equinix is uniquely positioned to help close this divide and address its inequities. It’s an issue and cause that we as a company and our employees have long been committed to actively engaging.
With that in mind, today we’re initiating a new pilot program designed specifically to make reliable, affordable internet service available in underserved communities in select states. We’re doing this by providing eligible local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the opportunity to expand their service areas, reduce connectivity costs, and unlock affordable internet access in these states.
As part of this pilot program, we’re offering qualified ISPs in Michigan, New York and Texas free connectivity to Equinix’s Internet Exchange (IX). This will enable these local ISPs to exchange internet traffic through the world’s largest global peering solution, spanning more than 40 markets. Participating ISPs will be provided 2×10 Gbps Internet Exchange (IX) ports free of charge for the duration of the 12-month pilot program. Our new program is available to ISPs that are participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benefit that provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.
As a signatory of the CEO Action for Racial Equity (CEOARE) fellowship, Equinix’s new initiative aligns with the CEOARE agenda, which includes a focus on advancing education and opportunity. Equinix has two employees serving full-time on the fellowship’s ‘Closing the Digital Divide’ team.
“High-quality internet access, affordability and adoption are legacy problems that disproportionately affect Black Americans,” said LJ Ghans, CEOARE Fellow, Education and Opportunity Platform Lead. “Alongside other signatory organizations within CEOARE, Equinix’s work on closing the digital divide has played a critical role in accelerating our shared commitment to bridging societal racial disparities.”
Bridging The Digital Divide
Equinix is offering free Internet Exchange (IX) ports to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Michigan, New York and Texas.Sign Up Now
Benefits to Internet Service Providers
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and workplaces to go online, existing racial and wealth inequality and the magnitude of the digital divide in the U.S were not only highlighted but exacerbated. For example, nearly 275,000 students in Texas lacked access to sufficient bandwidth for digital learning in 2019, the year before the pandemic, according to the Classroom Connectivity Initiative. In 2020, a report from the Texas Education Agency stated 1.8 million students in Texas, roughly 32.9% of the state’s student population at the time, had no internet connectivity at home.
By connecting to Equinix IX ports, eligible ISPs in Texas, New York and Michigan gain direct access to a wider range of content providers and networks, allowing them to offer underserved communities faster and more diverse and affordable connectivity options. Benefits to ISPs include:
- Improved Network Connectivity: Provide faster and more reliable internet access to their customers.
- Increased competitiveness: Increase their ability to compete in the market and improve quality of services.
- Access to new markets: Expand their customer base which will help ISPs grow their business and increase revenue.
- Improved Network Performance: Benefit from Equinix’s advanced network infrastructure and technologies which will help improve network performance and reliability and provide a better experience for customers.
- Improved Community Outcomes: Help communities with increased access to education, health care, and economic opportunities, as well as improved quality of life.
Why Michigan, New York and Texas?
While we recognize that the digital divide adversely affects millions of Americans across the country, we chose to pilot this new program in these three states as they most closely align with the work and mission of CEOARE and our collaboration with them.
Funding for the FCC’s ACP program is scheduled to extend into early 2024. The funding for our ISP pilot program is in place for the next 12 months and our Equinix CEOARE fellows will continue to work closely with CEOARE to explore policy-driven solutions that help close the digital divide.
We are realistic and recognize that no one company or program can singularly address the complexities, depth, and breadth of this issue. But we have long been committed to putting our shoulders to the task. Our name reflects that commitment and our focus: EQUality, Neutrality and Internet eXchange.
Though we know much remains to be done, we are confident that we can make a difference if we collaborate and work together toward a more equitable and accessible future.
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* As of 2022
** As of 2023