Washington, D.C. – January 13, 2010 – The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) yesterday filed a joint report entitled Toward Access, Adoption and Inclusion: A Call For Digital Equality and Broadband Opportunity with the FCC as public comment under the National Broadband Plan Docket. The report focuses on expanding broadband opportunity and offers a set of policy recommendations for spreading high-speed Internet service to every American.
”Broadband can and must be a vehicle for expanded opportunity for all Americans,” said the National Black Caucus of State Legislators President Calvin Smyre. “But if we tolerate a status quo in which some Americans have broadband and some don’t, the gaps that separate one American from another will become institutionalized.”
The report was issued jointly by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, and the National Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators. The Hispanic Institute and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies provided substantive data for the report and reiterated the need to collect better data about the digital divide and why people of color are less likely to subscribe to broadband service.
“The issue isn’t funding, its commitment,” noted study co-author Gus West, chairman of the board, The Hispanic Institute. “Broadband is one more opportunity for America to bring people of color into the economic mainstream at the beginning by making sure that every citizen has the same access to the Internet and the opportunities it provides.”
“We firmly believe that ubiquitous broadband access, adoption and use stand to be great equalizers in our society,” lawmakers said in the report. “For our organizations and, most significantly, for the communities and people we represent, the broadband status quo is unacceptable.”
The groups said that broadband Internet adoption and use must become the norm for all communities. They urge policymakers to make broadband connectivity available, accessible, and affordable for every American; to incentivize broadband adoption; and to foster investment in broadband as a way to stimulate job creation and economic opportunity.
The report identified the inability of large numbers of citizens to subscribe to broadband as the major reason the United States is falling short of its broadband goal, and traced that failure in large part to problems of affordability, and in some instances to access. It also warns against policies that might shift costs to the poor or “over-burden low-volume broadband users with the costs of maintaining services for high-volume users.”
“Before any new policy regime is implemented, we must fully understand the potential socio-economic implications of its implementation.” The report also noted the persistence of a digital divide that separates people of color and low wage earning groups from more affluent Americans. It states that the divide “threatens the future sustainability of our communities and our country.”
“We seek broadband for all because it creates opportunities, breaks down barriers and promotes access by opening doors in areas of job creation, education, and health care. Broadband can help reduce the inequalities that have historically hampered communities of color, and provide those same communities with better opportunities to build their lives based on their individual merit, ambition, and talents,” the report declared.
The full report can be found on the Hispanic Institute Website and accessed at the following link: http://thehispanicinstitute.net/files/u2/TAAI_MultiCaucus_Statement.pdf
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NBCSL has a rich history spanning over 30 years, and currently consists of 624 state legislators who are committed to opening doors and educating its membership on important policy concerns. Annually, NBCSL holds symposia on issues ranging from health disparities to housing, and has recently begun exploring ways in which advanced communication technologies can be used to leverage and uplift underserved. NBCSL is actively engaged in the implementation of policies to protect and benefit all Americans.