Urban family on computer

The National Urban League makes a range of broadband policy recommendations in its new Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion. The goal is to create “a comprehensive strategy for leveraging the tools of the information economy to create a more equitable and inclusive society.”

The plan addresses what the organization calls five “gaps:”

  • The Availability Gap: Millions of American homes and businesses are unable to connect to a home broadband internet connection because service is not available in their communities. This “prevents these communities from being able to fully participate in the economy; obtain education and health services; train, search, and apply for a job, and otherwise participate in society” the press release says.
  • The Adoption Gap: Even among those Americans for whom a broadband Internet connection is available, there are still tens of millions who have not subscribed.
  • The Affordability Gap: The cost of service remains a significant obstacle to adoption for many communities, the group says.
  • The Access to Economic Opportunity and Participation Gap: The opportunity for wealth accumulation is strong but is not being equitably distributed throughout society.
  • The Utilization Gap: The potential of broadband is not being fully leveraged in the provisioning of essential services, especially in workforce development, healthcare and education.

The plan calls for the FCC to reexamine network performance standards, identify areas without broadband networks, eliminate restrictions that disqualify providers that could deliver services quickly and allocate necessary subsidies to provide services.

The plan is named after Lewis Howard Latimer. Latimer, whose parents were born into slavery, contributed to Alexander Graham Bell’s work on the telephone and Thomas Edison’s on the electric light. He had no ownership stake in these seminal inventions, however.

“Now, more than ever, we need broadband access in every community across the nation,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said in a press release about the broadband policy recommendations. “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 mean that students fall behind their peers and small businesses fall behind their competitors—especially in communities of color.”

One company that has taken steps to make broadband available to more African Americans is Microsoft, which recently announced digital equity and economic opportunity programs in eight major U.S. cities.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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