Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to set rules to end digital discrimination and promote equal access to broadband.
The bipartisan “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021” requires the FCC to adopt rules to prevent broadband providers from discriminating on the basis of “income level, race, ethnicity, color or national origin.” Congress adopted this provision in response to numerous reports that ISPs investing millions to deploy fiber were refusing to invest in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. The statute requires the FCC to issue final rules by this month.
Public Knowledge has urged the FCC to adopt strong rules and to use the disparate impact standard. Public Knowledge is pleased to see the Commission adopt the disparate impact standard and a strong overall framework for future enforcement.
The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“Two years ago, Congress explicitly found that ‘the digital digital divide disproportionately affects communities of color, lower-income areas… and [that] the benefits of broadband should be broadly enjoyed by all.’ In response, Congress swiftly moved to fight digital redlining – the practice of broadband providers systemically underinvesting in communities of color and lower-income communities – by requiring the FCC to create rules ending this behavior by November 15, 2023.
“Today, the FCC adopts a framework that enacts this promise for the American people. With vigorous enforcement, today’s rules will connect more families denied high-speed broadband access simply because of who they are and where they live. We commend the FCC for taking yet another step toward closing the digital divide so that more people can benefit from broadband, a service essential for our modern lives. We applaud Chair Rosenworcel for her commitment to, in the words of the statute, ‘ensuring that all people of the United States benefit from equal access to broadband.’
“But while these rules create a strong framework, nothing will change without vigorous enforcement. We look forward to seeing this FCC move quickly to set a strong precedent that future Commissions must follow.”
You may view our previously filed comments with the FCC to end digital discrimination. For more proof on why these rules are necessary, view the latest findings from Connect Your Community in Cleveland, Ohio, to see first-hand how low-income people experience digital discrimination.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at email@example.com or 405-249-9435.