The web itself is built on an English-first architecture, and most of the big social media platforms that host public discourse in the United States put English first too. And as technologies become proxies for civic spaces in the United States, the primacy of English has been magnified. For Asian-Americans, the move to digital means that access to democratic institutions—everything from voting registration to local news—is impeded by linguistic barriers.
For as long as the internet has existed, there has been a divide between those who have it and those who do not, with increasingly high stakes for people stuck on the wrong side of America’s “persistent digital divide.” That’s one reason why, from the earliest days of his presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to make universal broadband a priority. But Biden’s promise has taken on extra urgency as a result of the pandemic.
A Q&A with Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on the “homework gap,” the term she coined to describe a problem facing communities where kids can’t access the internet because infrastructure is inadequate, their families can’t afford it, or both. Commissioner Rosenworcel is passionate about getting the FCC to update the E-Rate program, a federal education technology service created in 1996 that offers schools and libraries discounted internet access.