NTIA Heeds Luján, Warnock, and Colleagues’ Call Urging the FCC to Combat Digital Discrimination
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) welcomed calls from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt strong rules against digital discrimination. In a filing with the FCC, the NTIA urged the FCC to adopt a definition of digital discrimination that includes both disparate treatment and disparate impact on protected groups. Earlier this year, Luján and Reverend Warnock led a letter signed by U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on rulemaking regarding digital discrimination.
This NTIA filing makes clear that the Biden Administration supports establishing effective, clear, and practical rules prohibiting Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminatory practices that harm vulnerable communities.
“I’m proud to welcome this important filing from the NTIA making clear the Biden Administration supports our efforts combatting digital discrimination. Their support builds on the progress that Senator Warnock and I have made to close the digital divide in New Mexico, Georgia, and communities across the country,” said Senator Luján. “With the confirmation of Anna Gomez, backing from the Biden Administration, and strong congressional support – it’s critical the FCC acts on a final rule that protects rural and minority communities.”
“Residents in Georgia or anywhere else shouldn’t be paying more for less just because of their address or zip code, especially when it comes to something as essential as internet access,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “I’m pleased the NTIA has followed my lead in calling for the FCC to act with urgency to end discriminatory digital practices. As people continue to work, learn, and more online, our state’s economy relies on FCC’s swift and deliberate action to end digital discrimination.”
“Achieving digital equity means ending digital discrimination, which continues to disproportionately impact vulnerable communities in Vermont and nationwide,” said Senator Welch. “I’m encouraged by the recent NTIA filing, which reinforces our calls for the FCC to take decisive action to combat discriminatory digital practices. As our lives become increasingly connected to and dependent on the internet, it’s essential that the FCC acts urgently to close the digital divide in every neighborhood.”
The FCC sought comment on how to prevent digital discrimination of access to Internet service, as required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
NTIA’s filing urges the FCC to adopt a definition of digital discrimination that includes both disparate treatment and disparate impact on protected groups.
- Disparate treatment refers to intentional discrimination by an ISP against a group.
- Disparate impact refers to disparities in available Internet service and the actual on-the-ground experiences of different communities that result from a company’s policies and practices, irrespective of intent.
“The core concern in this area is the reality experienced by individuals and communities, including whether fast, reliable, and affordable high-speed Internet service is made available to them on an equal footing with their counterparts,” NTIA wrote in its filing. “While disparities in service could result from intentional discriminatory treatment based on the statute’s protected characteristics—which should certainly be prohibited—they may more commonly result from business decisions and institutional behaviors that were set in motion without any discriminatory intent.”
NTIA’s filing also clarified that actions in compliance with requirements of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, or other similar federally-funded programs, should be considered presumptively lawful under the digital discrimination rules.