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National Urban League Launches Plan to Address Digital Inequities

May 7, 2021

NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE LAUNCHES COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ADDRESS RACIAL DIGITAL  INEQUITIES

NEW YORK (March 30, 2021) — The National Urban League today announced a comprehensive strategy for leveraging the tools of the information economy to create a more equitable and inclusive society. The Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion addresses gaps in access to broadband that prevent some segments of the population from benefiting from the digital economy, which results in financial and educational inequalities.

“Now, more than ever, we need broadband access in every community across the nation,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the vast inequality in access to reliable broadband for students learning remotely and employees working from home. Gaps in broadband means that students fall behind their peers and small businesses fall behind their competitors—especially in communities of color.”

The Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion provides a comprehensive map for deploying broadband networks everywhere in the country; connecting every household to broadband networks; effectively utilizing the networks to improve the delivery of essential services,; and creating new opportunities for underserved communities to participate in the growth of the digital economy.

Specifically, the Plan provides recommendations on addressing multiple key areas:

  • The Availability Gap: millions of American homes and businesses cannot connect to a broadband network that will allow them to fully participate in the economy, obtain an education and health services, train, search, and apply for a job, and otherwise participate in society.
  • The Adoption Gap: even when broadband is available, some Americans are not able to take advantage of it due to inability to afford the service or lack of knowledge of how to navigate the Internet.
  • The Affordability Gap: for millions of Americans who do not subscribe to broadband, the cost of service remains an overwhelming obstacle to adoption in their communities.
  • The Access to Economic Opportunity and Participation Gap: while the digital economy has created the greatest opportunity for wealth accumulation in history, those opportunities are not being equitably distributed throughout society.
  • The Utilization Gap: the full range of uses of broadband is not being leveraged to its fullest extent, especially in the areas of workforce development, healthcare, and education.

 

The Plan was inspired by Lewis Howard Latimer, a 19th-century draftsman, soldier, scientist, and researcher whose parents were born into slavery. He worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the development of telephones and Thomas Edison on electric lighting. Unfortunately, while Latimer was a key contributor to Edison’s and Bell’s seminal wealth-creating inventions, he had no ownership stake in the vast businesses they spawned. That legacy must end now.

Under the Plan, the FCC would reexamine network performance standards, pinpoint areas without any broadband network, eliminate restrictions that disqualify providers who could deliver service quickly and efficiently, and allocate subsidies necessary to close the Availability Gap.

The Plan calls on the Department of Commerce and the FCC to collect information that allows the government and the public to understand and evaluate how the private sector is improving diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also recommends establishing a federal Office of Digital Equity to coordinate training and offers new proposals for restructuring the FCC’s Lifeline Program, to assure that all can afford broadband in the home.

“While broadband has become the commons for all manner of commerce, civic engagement, and self-help, the unfortunate reality is that communities facing digital poverty are the ones who could benefit from it the most,” said Blair Levin, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and Executive Director of the 2010 US National Broadband Plan “Our leaders need to step up and adopt sustainable solutions to the gaps that are holding back large segments of the population from full participation in the economy and society.”

The full Plan can be found here.

Published June 5th: https://nul.org/index.php/news/national-urban-league-launches-plan-address-digital-inequities