FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks
Congratulations to my friend and colleague Jessica Rosenworcel on her designation as acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission. For many years, Jessica has been a passionate advocate for bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans—particularly our children. Her designation comes at a critical juncture for the Commission, as COVID-19 has made bold action to end internet inequality more vital than ever. I look forward to working with her to close the digital divide and on the wide range of pressing issues facing the Commission.
“From my first day as Chairman, the FCC’s top priority has been closing the digital divide. It’s heartening to see these numbers, which demonstrate that we’ve been delivering results for the American people,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “In just three years, the number of American consumers living in areas without access to fixed broadband at 25/3 Mbps has been nearly cut in half. I’ve personally met some of these consumers, from Mandan, North Dakota to Ethete, Wyoming.
I am honored to join you for this kickoff in recognition of Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council’s (MMTC) thirty-five years of serving as a leading voice for communities of color and other marginalized groups, and working to achieve equity and inclusion in the Tech, Media, and Telecom industries. As noted by the late Congressman John Lewis: “Access to the internet ... is the civil
Regarding the adoption of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether to modify the FCC’s FM Booster Rules to permit geo-targeted content to originate from FM booster stations, which could provide a way for small and minority-owned stations to better serve their communities by offering hyper-localized content including alternative language news, weather, emergency alerts, and advertising periodically during the broadcast day:
Our failure to create inclusive policies that close the digital divide has done serious harm to the Americans who were already struggling to put food on their tables prior to the pandemic. The failures of our past, however, do not have to dictate the future. It is time—in fact, it is past,time—for the tech and telecom sector to take account for issues of equity and fairness.
As two of my Republican colleagues observed in 2016, it is long-standing Federal Communications Commission practice that, upon a presidential transition, the agency suspends its consideration of any partisan, controversial items until the transition period is complete. Our congressional leaders have called for Chairman Pai to respect this precedent, and I expect that he will abide by their request.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief a host of problems that at their core are about fairness—issues of racial justice, economic security, and the digital divide, among others. I am an optimist, and believe that technology, and the wireless communications sector in particular, has an important role to play here.
We won’t fully bring the benefits to all Americans if we’re advocating for bringing a connection into their homes that is insecure or unsafe. That means we cannot allow data security and privacy to become luxury goods available only to the elite. On the security side, I’ve been vocal about the need to secure our communications networks.
It is a privilege to address this conference, and to talk about the important job we have of protecting access to the scarce resource that is our nation’s airwaves, promoting the core principles of localism, diversity, and competition, and ensuring that broadcasters first and foremost serve the public interest. I look forward to engaging with you as leaders in the industry on how to address the issues Hispanic and Latinx and other underrepresented broadcasters face, and exploring what we all can do to keep radio vibrant and strong. What can be done to increase these ownership numbers?
The past few months have underscored a basic truth: full participation in civil society requires an internet connection. Wireless technologies, including emerging 5G technologies, have an important role to play here. That’s why we must do more to make high-quality, affordable broadband, including 5G wireless service, available to everyone. In planning and promoting the deployment of advanced wireless networks, we have an opportunity to promote digital inclusion and combat longstanding inequalities.