Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Legislators of Color Urge Action on Digital Divide

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

"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."

"Towards Access, Adoption & Inclusion: A Call for Digital Equality and Broadband Opportunity" was released jointly by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, and the National Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators. The Hispanic Institute and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies provided substantive data for the report. To download a copy of the report, visit HERE.

The Hispanic Institute is a 501 (c) 3 designated nonprofit organization. The Hispanic Institute's mission is sharply focused: THI provides an effective education forum for an informed and empowered Hispanic America. The Hispanic Institute manages ongoing projects including the study of Hispanic economic contributions; media monitoring; consumer fraud protection; citizenship education; and technology and telecommunication research. www.thehispanicinstitute.net.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation's leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. The Joint Center will mark its 40th Anniversary of service in 2010. To learn more, please visit www.jointcenter.org.

Source: The Hispanic Institute

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