Federal Communications Commission

Wired for Social Justice

January 25th, 2010 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

This past Friday, Blair Levin, Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, delivered a speech entitled 'Wired for Social Justice.'  Blair spoke at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council's Broadband and Social Justice Summit this past Friday. 


When President Eisenhower was desegregating schools and the Armed Forces, he said: “there must be no second class citizens in this country.”

No one in this room would argue. But as society changes, the attributes of citizenship can change as well.

And so in every age the question must be asked anew: “Are our policies contributing to a form of second class citizenship?”

This is a question we have spent a great deal of time—difficult time—working on as we try to develop a national broadband plan.

And that is what I want to talk about today.

I want to have a frank conversation about how we can ensure that in a society in which citizens increasingly interact, transact, communicate, collaborate, contribute and work online, digital citizenship is denied to no one.

Over the last thirty years, we have seen increases in income inequality, residential segregation and social isolation, and the concentration of disadvantage.

The number of neighborhoods today with a dangerous poverty rate—poverty above 30%-- is higher than it was in 2000.

In areas with a dense concentration of poverty, jobs disappear. Opportunity disappears.  The American tradition of justice, of achieving the American dream, emphasizes equality of opportunity – of having access to equal sets of resources that can enable us, our families, our children to succeed.

Let me be clear: access to high-speed Internet, even when paired with the digital skills needed to use it, is not a guarantee of such opportunity – it also requires values such as hard work and diligence that neither technology nor government can provide.

But broadband can help people get access to better jobs, better education, better health care information and improved government services.

And those services should be accessible anytime, anywhere, not requiring a day spent traveling to and waiting in line at government welfare offices in the midst of a workday.

This is no theoretical exercise. Connecting those previously excluded can bring real results.

(Continue reading here...)



One Response to “Wired for Social Justice”

  1. Brett Glass says:

    Blair, you're right. And as many minority organizations have stated, the issue in DC which poses the greatest danger to minority inclusion on the Internet is the proposed "network neutrality" regulation now being discussed there at the FCC. As noted in the article at

    the proposed regulations -- which are being pushed by large corporations, primarily Google -- would widen the digital divide by increasing the cost of broadband service, lowering its quality, discouraging deployment, discouraging investment, and harming competition. (My own ISP is one small but growing competitor which is reaching out to unserved areas and would be harmed by such rules. See my filing at -- it's also in the docket, though it is buried under the massive pile of identical form letters from corporate lobbying groups -- for an explanation of why.)

    What can the FCC do? As mentioned in my filing, the best things it can do are promote competition and mandate transparency, but not micromanage Internet service providers, attempt to dictate their business models, or frighten away their potential investors with the prospect of excessive regulation. Please make these recommendations part of the Broadband Plan.

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