FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks
Joint Statement Of Representative Yvette Clarke And Commissioner Geoffrey Starks On Tracking Americans To Protests And Places Of Worship
For communities of color, Internet access has been a crucial tool for amplifying our narratives and mobilizing Americans for change. And smartphones have allowed us to shine a spotlight on tragedies like the killing of George Floyd. Because we believe so strongly in the power of connectivity, we must speak up when bad actors use those tools to threaten Americans’ privacy and First Amendment rights.
The rules NTIA has proposed are ill-advised, and the Commission should dispose of this Petition as quickly as possible. As a threshold matter, NTIA has not made the case that Congress gave the FCC any role here. Section 230 is best understood as it has long been understood: as an instruction to courts about when liability should not be imposed. The proposed rules themselves are troubling. Among other substantive problems, NTIA seems to have failed to grasp how vast and diverse the ecosystem of interactive computer services is.
Telehealth services surged during the coronavirus pandemic, and yet we have to deal with the harsh reality that Black communities disproportionately lack access to the telecommunications services that provide access to critical, life-saving care. This is why I have called for an expansion of the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program, which is the only federal subsidy that offers voice and broadband services at a subsidized rate to low-income Americans, to meet the critical needs of this moment in history.
Network security is national security. Today’s actions will help secure our networks against new threats from Huawei and ZTE equipment. We must not, however, lose sight of the untrustworthy equipment already in place. The Commission has taken important steps toward identifying the problematic equipment in our systems, but there is much more to do. We must prioritize our review of our recent information collection and establish an expedited plan for the removal and replacement of untrustworthy equipment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the digital divide in an unprecedented way. As civil rights leaders and a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, we are calling on our nation’s leadership to enact a robust connectivity plan to address the immediate and future needs of marginalized communities. An astonishing 34 percent of Black adults, 39 percent of Latino adults, and 47 percent of those on tribal lands do not have a home broadband connection. This compares with the 21 percent of White adults who do not have broadband at home.
Concerning President Donald Trump's Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, I first want to talk about process and why the FCC needs to keep it from dragging out. Second, I want to move on to the question of the FCC’s rulemaking authority here. And finally, I want to raise some key questions around the substance of the Executive Order. 1) Given the role Section 230 has played in shaping American life online, we have to get this right. And we need to act quickly. 2) I am skeptical that there’s any role for the FCC here.
As not only a Commissioner of the FCC, but as a Black father of two young children who deeply cares about my country and my community, I know that our policymakers must do more to include Black people and other communities of color and create a better world for future generations. We all have a part to play in the fight for equity and, as a communications policymaker, I take it very seriously. I am committed to continuing to advocate for inclusive broadband access and adoption policies and diversity in media ownership.
The American space industry holds tremendous potential to address [the challenge of the digital divide] through next-generation satellite broadband. The coming proliferation of small low-earth-orbit satellites promises to unleash internet connectivity with latency and speeds superior to existing satellite broadband options and competitive with cable and fiber offerings. And they will reach places that, due to difficult terrain and distance from population centers, have not shared in the benefits of expanding terrestrial networks.
I called for this convening because I recognize that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are unique institutions and play a powerful role in this country. We must be proactive and create a comprehensive approach to combat existing and potential challenges to broadband access. And this moment serves as an opportunity to do what HBCUs have historically done for our communities—advocate. During my time at the Commission, I have focused my efforts on addressing internet inequality. And I use this term because we can no longer say that this is simply a digital divide.
Remarks Of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, Advisory Committee On Diversity And Digital Empowerment, Via Teleconference
I’m proud to announce that I will be hosting a virtual conversation with HBCU Presidents on May 4th to discuss how the transition to online learning has impacted their students’ ability to continue learning, innovating, and connecting. During this discussion, I look forward to hearing how these universities rose to the occasion to connect students without broadband access and get devices in the hands of those without laptops and tablets so they could complete their assignments online. But the need for connectivity does not end with our students.