New report on ‘Digital Divide’ shows urgent need for action, legislators of color say

WASHINGTON, DC — In conjunction with caucuses representing communities of color from several state legislatures, the Hispanic Institute released a new report that urges lawmakers at all levels of government to expand access to high-speed internet for all Americans.  Hispanic Institute

“Broadband is the best opportunity for people of color to advance in the areas of education, health care, and economic development,” said Gus West, Board Chair of the Hispanic Institute. “It is imperative that leaders in these communities have a seat at the technology and telecommunications policymaking table.”

The report — “Towards Access, Adoption & Inclusion: A Call for Digital Equality and Broadband Opportunity” — notes the persistence of a digital divide that separates people of color and low wage-earning groups from more affluent Americans. Such a divide “threatens the future sustainability of our communities and our country,” the report concludes.

“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.”

According to the report, many Americans, particularly people of color, do not have access to affordable broadband options. “Policymakers must address affordability problems head-on through a combination of government initiatives, programmatic reforms, incentives for private-sector investment in broadband deployment, and public-private partnerships,” said West.

“Toward Access” also 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.

“Ubiquitous broadband access, adoption, and use stand to be great equalizers in our society,” concluded West. “Lawmakers should work to make affordable broadband access a reality nationwide.”