October 24, 2016
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Legislators Of Color Urge Assault On Digital Divide

Miami, FL -  In a joint report on expanding broadband opportunity, entitled Toward Access, Adoption and Inclusion:  A Call For Digital Equality and Broadband Opportunity, state legislative caucuses representing communities of color today called the broadband status quo "unacceptable" and released a set of policy recommendations for spreading high-speed Internet service to every American.

"We firmly believe that ubiquitous broadband access, adoption and use stand to be great equalizers in our society," the lawmakers said in the report.  "For our organizations and, most significantly, for the communities and people we represent, the broadband status quo is unacceptable."

"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. 

Digital Divide Threatens Sustainability of Communities of Color

Writing in "Towards Access, Adoption & Inclusion: A Call for Digital Equality and Broadband Opportunity," the groups said that broadband Internet adoption and use must become the norm for all communities.  They urged 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 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 report noted the persistence of a digital divide that separates people of color and low wage earning groups from more affluent Americans.   It said the divide "threatens the future sustainability of our communities and our country."

"Broadband can and must be a vehicle for expanded opportunity for all Americans," said study co-author Dr. Nicole Turner Lee, VP and Director, Media and Technology Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.   "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 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.

Affordability is A Key Barrier That Prevents Many Citizens From Embracing Broadband

"Even where service is available, if the proposition of adopting broadband is too expensive, people will not use it," the report said.  It urged policymakers to address affordability through a combination of government initiatives, programmatic reforms, incentives for private sector action,  and public-private partnerships.

It warned 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 added.  The lawmakers also called for "a system of checks and balances that encourages, rather than dissuades, private investment in broadband deployment and innovation."

"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."

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The Hispanic Institute is a 501 (c) 3 designated nonprofit organization.  The Hispanic Institute's mission is sharply focused: THI provides an effective education forum for an informed and empowered Hispanic America.  The Hispanic Institute manages ongoing projects including the study of Hispanic economic contributions; media monitoring; consumer fraud protection; citizenship education; and technology and telecommunication research.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation's leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. The Joint Center will mark its 40th Anniversary of service in 2010. To learn more, please visit www.jointcenter.org.


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