Op-Ed: Help close the broadband access divide by combating digital discrimination

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According to the 2022 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, "digital discrimination" involves determining who gets broadband access “based on income level, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.” As an example, some neighborhoods in cities get faster broadband speeds than those in poorer neighborhoods, creating a two-tiered effect. Nationally, the Federal Communications Commission has been empowered by Congress to handle digital discrimination complaints, which provides some remedy for those who find themselves on this new wrong side of the digital divide. But since the FCC must handle complaints from all 50 states, there is a real likelihood of an individual getting caught in the slow-moving bureaucracy of Washington, DC. The new infrastructure law, however, does not prohibit individual states and cities from developing their own approaches. Recently, Los Angeles became the first major US city to ban digital discrimination by expanding LA’s authority to oversee discrimination writ large. Nashville should follow LA's lead by having the Metropolitan Council enact comparable measures to combat digital discrimination. As Tennessee’s largest city, it can be a pacesetter for the state and inspire other cities to do the same.


[Stuart N. Brotman is an endowed professor of media law, enterprise and leadership at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is the author of "The First Amendment Lives On."]

Help close the broadband access divide by combating digital discrimination | Opinion