Nicol Turner Lee

Can we better define what we mean by closing the digital divide?

Even with Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds, the federal government will once again fail to address digital disparities without a clear definition of the problems being solved and a lack of substantive feedback from local stakeholders who understand the conditions of their communities. Part of this failure rests on the reliance of policymakers on regulatory guidance from communications policies drafted before the cont

No child deserves to be left offline this school year—here’s how Congress can help

As the conditions of students without home broadband access or a device mirror the broad systemic inequalities of the US, Congress must do more than offer piecemeal funding to connect K-12 students to the internet.

California’s net neutrality law and the case for zero-rating government services

California’s 2018 net neutrality law, SB-822, recently went into effect and concerns have been already raised about the legality of “zero-rating,” the practice by which commercial arrangements and unilateral decisions by network operators are exempted from consumer pricing. Under California’s net neutrality law, zero-rating and sponsored data programs violate the new law because certain content cannot be excluded from consumer data caps, or usage-based pricing. Turner Lee offers the following recommendations to state and federal leaders:

How courageous schools partnering with local communities can overcome digital inequalities during COVID-19

Leveraging high-speed broadband access, I present several ideas for ensuring all K-12 students can learn during a time of in-person schooling shutdowns and other uncertainties: transform vacant local establishments into classrooms and provide technology access through unused business equipment; enable Wi-Fi in federally assisted housing or in parked school buses; reconfigure digital parking lots into digital parks; and utilize local organizations to help solve local digital access challenges.

For schools to reopen, Congress must include broadband funding in the stimulus bill

Every K-12 school must have a 21st-century remote access plan to complement the CDC guidance and  Congress must direct the necessary funding for bringing broadband access to all public schools in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

Managing health privacy and bias in COVID-19 public surveillance

On April 10, Apple and Google announced their response to the call for digital contact tracing, which would involve subscribers voluntarily downloading an app. While it is seemingly clear that widespread contact tracing and surveillance can help identify coronavirus cases and possible hot spots for new and recurring infections, several questions remain. The first one is related to the security and anonymity of one’s personal data.

What the coronavirus reveals about the digital divide between schools and communities

With a disproportionate number of school-age children lacking home broadband access, the breadth of the US digital divide has been revealed as schools struggle to substitute in-school resources with online instruction, electronic libraries, streaming videos, and other online tutorials. In the US, there are approximately 480,000 school buses that transport about 25 million students on a  weekly basis to school and back. With newly installed Wi-Fi hotspots, these buses can maintain the integrity of current social distancing.

Bridging digital divides between schools and communities

Getting internet to the school is just one piece of the puzzle in closing the digital divide and the growing “homework gap” in which students lack residential and community broadband access. Even in communities with exceptional broadband in their schools, how are student experiences affected when nearby institutions and establishments, including libraries, churches and other public facilities, have limited digital resources and connectivity?

Can social media help build communities?

In a new paper, we explore the extent to which community-building is possible on social media platforms, particularly on issues where partisanship has forced many Americans to choose sides on politically charged issues. The paper, presented at the 2018 TPRC conference, focuses on the demonstrated trends of partisanship in the network neutrality debate, a regulatory framework that prohibits blocking and unreasonable discrimination by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and promotes greater consumer transparency. Our specific inquiry is about the ability of these platforms to present brokers wh