A Democratic congressman announced legislation this week that aims to use multiple federal government programs to bring broadband internet and computers to local parks across the country, bridging the digital divide in underserved communities by providing free internet services.
The Technology in the Parks Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., aims to boost innovation, increase technology training and decrease inequality through multiple relevant internet programs.
“I believe that this legislation aligns with the nation’s commitment to fostering innovation, education, and community development,” Davis said in a statement. “This legislation, once passed, will contribute to building a more technologically inclusive society, ensuring that the benefits of advancements reach all corners of our community.”
The bill proposes an expansion of the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rates internet program to include local parks, which Davis said is key to bringing broadband access to outdoor community spaces, similar to the existing coverage for schools and libraries.
The FCC’s E-rate program helps schools and libraries across the country gain access to affordable broadband internet and is the government’s largest educational technology program.
The legislation would include local parks in the U.S. General Services Computers for Learning Program, providing access to computer equipment that federal agencies have identified as excess property and enabling technological advancements and digital literacy in those areas.
The third piece of the legislation would require the Labor Department to establish a program to offer grants for technology training programs in local parks, supporting skill development and ensuring that local parks that host such programs are eligible for E-Rate support.
The legislation “is a crucial step in bridging the technological divide and promoting education and skill development in our communities,” Davis said. “By extending E-Rate support to local parks, we empower these spaces to become hubs for technology training, creating opportunities for skill acquisition in areas such as coding, cyber security, digital manufacturing, and more.”