What is Broadband Equity?
America’s economic future depends on our investment in opportunities for everyone and building systems that support innovation. Broadband is now indispensable for almost every facet of society: getting healthcare to hard to reach places, helping our kids learn, building our small businesses and helping them compete; and insuring that we all get the information we need to participate in our democracy. Our economic future depends on everyone having access to this vital resource. Poor communities and communities of color must not be left behind.
A Federal Communications Commission survey (FCC) shows that the disconnected tend to be older, poorer, less educated, and people of color. While rural areas belong at the top of this list, disconnection is an urban problem, too. As Congressman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District told representatives of AT&T, his office can’t get the high-speed Internet service he wants on a major boulevard in the largest city in the state. “I can get it if I’m on the other side of Jackson, so it’s an urban problem too.”
It’s an urban and rural problem with a disproportionate impact on African American and Latino households. Federal statistics show on average 69% of American households have broadband at home, but only 59% of African American households and only 49% of Latino households have broadband.
We can’t depend on the telecommunication giants to make this a priority for us. America has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to expanding our broadband infrastructure. In the last decade we dropped from fourth to well below 20th. Why? One reason is digital redlining. People of color, thanks to a history of housing discrimination and poverty, tend to live in older buildings and communities. Telecoms avoid investing in these communities because of the cost of upgrading the infrastructure and the impact on their profit margin. Their neglect leaves communities of color in the digital dark, less able to create technology jobs in their communities, less able to help kids compete in a 21st century economy and unable to get connected to the rest of the world.
It’s a model that doesn’t work, it’s a model without equity, and it’s a model that will hobble our economic future.
CSI works in states like Mississippi to catalyze policy solutions that ensure that Broadband technology is accessible to all.
- 2012 Report – Broadband in Mississippi: Toward Policies for Access Equity
- 2011 Report – The Promise and Challenge of Community Broadband Models: Lessons from the National Symposium on Community-scale Broadband
- 2010 Report – Broadband in the Mississippi Delta: A 21st Century Racial Justice Issue
- Summary – Broadband Equity Today