Joint Center President Spencer Overton filed reply comments with the FCC “to prevent digital discrimination by ensuring that Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act broadband resources are equitably deployed in the Black Rural South.” Black households in the Black Rural South are among the most unserved by broadband in the nation, and the federal infrastructure law represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix this problem.
Despite this opportunity, the 22-page document explains that Southern states could “exclude Black communities in the Black Rural South from state buildout plans and deploy federal infrastructure resources in ways that expand racial disparities in broadband availability.” The reply comments also propose initial steps the FCC, the U.S. Commerce Department, state governments, and local leaders in the Black Rural South should take to avoid inequitable deployment.
The comments grow out of data from the Joint Center’s 2021 report “Affordability & Availability: Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South,” which found that 38 percent of Black households in the Black Rural South report lacking broadband, compared to 23 percent of white households in the Black Rural South and 22 percent of all households in rural areas outside of the South.
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