The Federal Communications Commission has considered four aspects of diversity: 1) Viewpoint diversity ensures that the public has access to a wide range of diverse and antagonistic opinions and interpretations provided by opportunities for varied groups, entities and individuals to participate in the different phases of the broadcast industry; 2) Outlet diversity is the control of media outlets by a variety of independent owners; 3) Source diversity ensures that the public has access to information and programming from multiple content providers; and 4) Program diversity refers to a variety of programming formats and content.
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council -- joined by more than two dozen national organizations -- says the Federal Communications Commission should make sure that the initial tranche of its $9 billion in rural 5G subsidy funding goes to help those furthest from digital equality, which includes impoverished African American and Hispanic communities. The groups say that the FCC should prioritize funding according to poverty, not population density.
Spotlight on Commerce: Zach Lilly, Telecommunications Policy Analyst, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Growing up as a gay kid, one of the first ways I was able to better understand myself was by going on the Internet. I was able to look up queer history that I had never been taught in school, see political debates affecting the LGBTQ+ community that I was too nervous to engage in myself, and look for examples of out and proud LGBTQ+ folks who were living their lives to the fullest. It was the only safe method of engagement I had, until I was eventually ready to come out myself.
Limiting Broadband Investment to "Rural Only” Discriminates Against Black Americans and other Communities of Color
The federal government’s existing broadband programs target hundreds of millions of dollars to expand broadband availability for residents of “unserved and underserved” rural areas, while studiously ignoring tens of millions of urban Americans who still lack high-speed internet service. This policy framework is counterproductive for reducing the nation’s overall digital divide. It is also structurally racist, discriminating against unconnected Black Americans and other communities of color. We present data below showing that:
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.
Comcast is developing a comprehensive, multiyear plan to allocate $100 million to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability. There will be $75 million in cash and $25 million in media that will be distributed over the next three years.
Protests around the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody are reigniting discussion of black representation in the technology sector. Despite yearslong efforts by companies to diversify their tech workforces, black people accounted for 7.8% of people in core information-technology occupations in the U.S., according to CompTIA, an IT trade group. Several black tech executives said they hope the current attention on racial disparities will bring change, and in turn, expand the participation of blacks in technology in ways they haven’t seen before.
Although an unexpected message from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, our aim is really about opportunity and community. We believe that communications policy—rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity—has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities to bridge our divides. We don't believe that broadband educates children. We do believe that broadband facilitates vital connections between students and teachers, especially during this time when so many schools are shuttered. We don't believe broadband makes you healthy.
Today the United States crumbles under the weight of two pandemics: coronavirus and police brutality. Both wreak physical and psychological violence. Both disproportionately kill and debilitate black and brown people. And both are animated by technology that we design, repurpose, and deploy—whether it’s contact tracing, facial recognition, or social media. We often call on technology to help solve problems.
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.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks will virtually host this roundtable to discuss the connectivity needs of students, faculty, and staff at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) during this unprecedented crisis. This event will feature special remarks from U.S. Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) & U.S. Representative G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) and convene Presidents and leadership from HBCUs across the nation.