03/22/2011 03:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

NBP Anniversary Coincides With Considerable Steps Forward

Last year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its National Broadband Plan (NBP) designed to make affordable broadband available to 100 percent of Americans. The overwhelming sentiment of progress since the release of the NBP is that we still have a lot of work to do; in recent months the FCC has began the focus policies around reforming the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation -- signaling that we are on the right track. And the just announced merger of T-Mobile USA and AT&T which allows increased access to affordable broadband is another considerable step forward that will catapult efforts as we head into year two of NBP implementation.

The merger of T-Mobile USA and AT&T will enable rapid broadband coverage for most of the nation -- including many lower-income and rural communities that have been largely underserved -- through an expanded 4G LTE deployment to 95% of the U.S. population within six years. This is a huge step forward in making President Obama's vision of reaching 98% of Americans a reality. What's more, wireless broadband has shown tremendous promise in bringing our communities of color into the digital age -- something that an increasing number of studies and reports have shown we have got to improve upon if we are going to bridge the digital divide that exists in this country. This merger puts the right technologies into the communities that need it, at the right time... and at the right price.

Additionally, over the next seven years our economy will benefit from more than $8 billion in incremental infrastructure, enabling critical innovation and economic growth. Add this to the deal's empowerment of American workers who will gain crucial employment security and a management record that is respectful of union membership among other workforce benefits as well as the opportunity to benefit from AT&T's commitment to supplier diversity that will fold into T-Mobile USA, and you have a very positive job situation to add to the already strong industry portfolio. The importance of these aspects is demonstrated by the quick-backing of one of our partners, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) who called the acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T, "a victory for broadband proponents in both the U.S. and Germany," and cited benefits that would abound for customers and employees both here and abroad.

We at ADE look forward to seeing the benefits of this merger that will help bring all Americans into the digital age -- but also realize that there's more to this than just laying the infrastructure. Access is certainly the first step, but adoption is the second and is a key component. As T-Mobile USA and AT&T work together to deliver greater access to affordable broadband to most of the nation, we must continue to focus on important digital literacy programs that will enable all Americans -- particularly those in lower-income communities -- to fully embrace and adopt these empowering and life-changing technologies.

This merger provides an important opportunity to really catapult our efforts to bring all Americans into the digital age and we at ADE look forward to working with the FCC and other local stakeholders that are a part of our Digital Empowerment Councils, which span 14 urban markets, so that the quality of life for communities of color can be enhanced through digital technology. Together, we can ensure that no one is left behind.

Julius H. Hollis is the CEO of the Alliance for Digital Equality, a non-profit organization that receives funding from a wide array of organizations including those from the telecommunications, energy and entertainment sectors.