Broadband Conference: Closing the Digital Divide

Tags: Technology Policy

Live Stream

Co-Sponsored by
The Colorado European Union Center of Excellence

Our thanks to Patty Limerick, conference panelist and Faculty Director & Chair of the Board for the Center of the American West, University of Colorado, for creating and sharing these limericks about broadband at our conference!

If broadband is within your reach,
Your life will be sweet as a peach.
You’ll be happy and healthy,
Powerful and healthy,
And you’ll be able to learn and to teach.

Humanity would cheer and applaud
If a kind and benevolent god
Had installed on the earth,
From the time of its birth,
A band that was suitably broad.

The concept of the “digital divide” emerged as a concept in the 1990s when the National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a series of reports entitled, “Falling Through the Net.” The concern articulated at that time – that Americans without Internet access would be at a significant disadvantage – has only increased over the last 20 years. During that time, the Internet has moved to broadband, and the question has become whether all Americans have access to broadband Internet service.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) traditionally viewed “universal service” through the lens of voice services and only relatively recently began to emphasize access to broadband. But for many observers, the need to reform the current universal service regime remains a work in progress. As two Senators (Klobuchar and Thune) put it recently, “the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules have failed to keep pace with the changing communications landscape and consumer preferences.” The FCC’s efforts to reform the legacy universal service regime focuses on promoting access to broadband in rural areas, Tribal lands, for schools, libraries, and health clinics, and for low-income individuals.

This conference will exam the FCC’s ongoing efforts to reform universal service and will compare that effort to the state of access to broadband (both wired and wireless) internationally. The first panel will examine the FCC’s ongoing efforts to address, as FCC Chairman Wheeler put it, that less than 50% of Americans making less than $25,000 have service at home and that nearly 50% of low-income Americans have had to cancel or suspend smartphone service on financial grounds. The second panel will discuss the state of rural and Tribal lands access to broadband technology. The third panel will evaluate the state of broadband access internationally, looking closely at the case of developing nations. Finally, the conference will conclude with a closing dialogue on putting infrastructure in perspective to capture the overall theme of the conference.


  • Phil Weiser
    Hatfield Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
Low Income Access to Broadband
  • Blake E. Reid — Moderator
    Clinical Professor, University of Colorado Law School
  • Madura Wijewardena
    Executive Director, Global Public Policy, Comcast Corporation
  • Nicol Turner-Lee
    Vice President and Chief Research & Policy Officer, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)
  • Jon Wilkins
    Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
  • Sharyn Guhman
    Chief Information Officer, Denver Public Schools

Rural and Tribal Lands Access
  • Phil Weiser — Moderator
    Hatfield Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • Patty Limerick
    Professor of History, University of Colorado Boulder
  • John Jones
    Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Relations, CenturyLink
  • Stephen C. Hillard
    President and Chief Executive Officer, Council Tree Investors
  • Andrew Moore
    Chief Information Officer, Boulder Valley School District

International Broadband Access
  • Monisha Merchant — Moderator
    Managing Director, Lotus Advisory
  • Phil Verveer
    Senior Counsel to the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
  • Glenn Reynolds
    Chief of Staff, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Kyaw Tin
    General Counsel, Myanmar Integrated Networks
  • Scott Marcus
    Independent Expert
Closing Dialogue: Putting Infrastructure in Perspective
  • Phil Weiser — Moderator
    Hatfield Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • Patty Limerick
    Professor of History, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Bryan Tramont
    Managing Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
  • Dale Hatfield
    Spectrum Policy Initiative Co-director and Distinguished Advisor, Silicon Flatirons

Know What’s Next