Broadband Discrimination Is Being Tackled by a New FCC Task Force

broadband discriminationThe FCC has released a plan for addressing broadband discrimination in the United States.

Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, of the Federal Communications Commission has announced its plan of developing a cross-agency task force to address and eradicate broadband or digital discrimination.

What is Broadband Discrimination?

Digital or broadband discrimination is the discrimination by telecommunication providers against potential consumers based on income, race, or neighborhood location. This type of discrimination is also known as digital redlining. Digital discrimination is one of the reasons for the digital divide in America.

Digital Divide in America

America has been faced with a digital divide for some time now. The digital divide is the gap of accessible telecom connectivity for communities. This challenge has negatively impacted business development and educational efforts. There are organizations such as EducationSuperHighway and GeoTel that combat the digital divide in the education system. However, this previously existing condition is being exacerbated by broadband discrimination.

According to telecompetitor in 2019, about a quarter or 23% of Americans have access to fiber gigabit services, and more than two-thirds, or 67%, have access to 500 Mbps services. The FCC’s recently released data suggests that by the end of 2021, about 98% of households in the U.S. had access to upload speeds of 3 Mbps and download speeds of 25 Mbps. These numbers are nowhere near gigabit services but do offer basic-level connectivity.

Unfortunately, not all states are equal. An article released just this past November 2021, stated that “only 32% of Alabamians have access to gigabit-speed fiber broadband service. 12 counties in our state are completely without gigabit service availability and our state ranks 38th in broadband connectivity.

The FCC’s Answer

The FCC will combat digital discrimination with the newly developed task force. The FCC task force will promote policies, develop rules, and create regulations to combat discrimination of broadband services based on income, race, or location. Chairwoman Rosenworce stated the following a press release. “Addressing digital discrimination and redlining is a critical piece to living up to our standard of equal access to the infrastructure needed for 21st-century success—no matter who you are or where you live.  Your zip code should not determine access to broadband—which this pandemic has proven is a must-have, just like electricity or water.

The Task Force, guided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, has the following goals.

  • Develop practices and create model policies for local and state governments to prevent telecom service providers from digitally discriminating
  • Establish regulations to provide broadband access equally and prohibit discrimination based on ethnicity, income, or altering relevant factors
  • Amend the public complaint procedures to facilitate accurate feedback from communities possibly facing discrimination

The FCC has established a task force to tackle broadband discrimination and with these goals in mind, America may finally close the digital divide.

If your organization is interested in accessing accurate, real-time telecommunications infrastructure data, contact GeoTel to start this process.

Author: Valerie Stephen