Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced on Tuesday that the agency has formed a task force to create rules to combat digital discrimination and digital redlining.
Digital redlining, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) notes, happens when internet service providers (ISPs) build out their broadband networks in high-income areas, with low-income users being left without access or slower access for higher prices.
The task force, according to the FCC, will create rules that “promote equal access to broadband across the country, regardless of zip code, income level, ethnicity, race, religion, or national origin.”
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law last year directed the FCC to adopt rules within two years that addressed digital redlining.
“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,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Your zip code should not determine access to broadband—which this pandemic has proven is a must-have, just like electricity or water.”
The FCC’s new task force will also work to create “model policies and best practices” for states to ensure that “ISPs do not engage in digital discrimination.”
Dozens of public interest organizations like EFF, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, MediaJustice, Public Knowledge, and others have been pushing the FCC to address digital redlining for years, pointing to studies that showed ISPs invested in fiber optic infrastructure in wealthier neighborhoods while ignoring lower-income neighborhoods.
“The result of this digital redlining is the formation of a 1st class and 2nd class broadband infrastructure where wealthy communities easily access 21st-century opportunities with low cost, fast internet while everyone else is left behind,” a coalition of groups wrote in 2020.
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