WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks announces the honorees of the inaugural Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition (DOER) Program that was created to acknowledge the tireless efforts of Americans working to close the digital divide in communities without access to affordable, reliable broadband.

The program honorees will be recognized at a virtual reception Thursday at 1 p.m.

“It is clear that our long-standing digital divide has morphed into a monstrous new COVID-19 divide. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through now, I have heard stories about the innovative and rapid ways individuals, non-profit organizations, and companies are responding to the connectivity needs of people across this country who are seeking access to medical professionals via telehealth services, education, and safe ways to communicate with family and friends,” said Commissioner Starks. “In response to these efforts, I put out an open call to hear about heroic DOERs who have stepped up in their communities to ensure that no one gets left behind because they lack broadband connectivity. The DOER Program received an overwhelming response to that call with more than 60 submitted applications, each one impressive and laudable, and demonstrating a true commitment to serving communities through acts of substance and consequence, big and small, generosity and selflessness both during the pandemic and prior to the recent events that have changed our nation.”

Starks said because of all of the strong nominations he received, narrowing down the honorees was very challenging. “I believe every applicant is worthy of recognition but there were several that rose to the top because of the scope of their accomplishments and the impact they made. From rural areas to urban corridors, students to seniors, to say this year’s DOER honorees are a stellar group is an understatement.”

The scope of their accomplishments includes:

• Nationwide efforts that cover all 50 states;

• Specific and focused work in cities like Detroit, San Diego, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City and across rural communities like Audubon, Iowa; Palmer, Alaska; and northern Minnesota;

• Hundreds of community hotspots;

• Connections for over 600,000 students to devices and broadband during the pandemic;

• Connections to 16,000 public housing units;

• Thousands of miles of rural connectivity;

• Support for thousands of school districts, 160 library branches and community locations such as hospitals;

• Legal and governmental outreach and support to over 400 tribal communities;

• Thousands of jobs attained which have supported both families and the economy;

“I am immensely proud of the work Americans are doing across this country to connect those who are being left behind. Below are the awardees, as recognized in three categories: Individual(s), Organization, and Corporation. Congratulations to all, and please keep up the hard work,” Starks added.

Corporate DOERs

Paul Bunyan Communications was one of 11 corporations that will be honored as a Corporate DOER.

“Its cooperative members have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic including the transition to working from home, increased telehealth services, and distance learning. Paul Bunyan Communications worked directly with the school districts it serves to quickly develop creative solutions to ensure broadband access for students by installing multiple Wi-Fi hot spots so students and their families in unserved areas around the cooperative would not be left behind. The cooperative has now built one of the largest all-fiber optic rural broadband networks in the United States that is delivering broadband speeds, both upload and download, up to 1 gigabit per second to over 23,000 rural locations in northern Minnesota.”

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