All three current FCC commissioners turned out on Tuesday for the presentation of an Urban League study that reported a continued broadband adoption gap between African Americans and white Americans.
The study, "Connecting the Dots: Linking Broadband Adoption to Job Creation and Job Competitiveness," found that despite a narrowing gap, 56 percent of African Americans had home access to broadband in 2010, compared with 67 percent of white Americans. The study also found high school dropouts and those from households with annual incomes below $20,000 were far less likely to have access to broadband. The study said the persistent broadband gap is a hindrance to those who need online access for job searching.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski used the occasion to promote Connect-to-Compete, a public-private initiative in partnership with the cable industry that offers discounted broadband subscriptions and computers to low-income families. Genachowski compared the broadband access in the 21st century to electricity access in the last century. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn agreed that broadband access, "can be expedited in coordination with private industry."
Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell was the sole participant to dwell on the revolution in mobile broadband -- a topic that was perhaps not emphasized, in deference to the hosts at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. McDowell cited Pew survey data that showed minorities were leading whites in smartphone adoption and use of the mobile Internet.
The study advocated for more investment in vocational training to help minorities particularly in poor communities, acquire and retain jobs in technology-related sectors. Genachowski echoed this call, saying, "Millions being left out of jobs, left out of digital learning, is not just an economic issue; it's a civil rights issue," it reads.