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FCC Hopes to Eliminate Digital Redlining

In years past, consumers who lived in areas deemed high-risk by the U.S. government, including many poor and underserved communities, were ineligible for certain benefits. This process, known as redlining, has roots dating all the way back to the 1930s. Although many see it as an archaic process that was banned and given up a long time ago, the truth is, redlining still exists; it’s just taking on new forms.

What is Digital Redlining?

A similar process, known as digital redlining, makes it impossible for low-income and impoverished communities to receive access to services such as high-speed internet. With broadband speeds increasing across the board, and with more Americans receiving access to high-speed internet, many are still left in the dark.
In fact, a recent study by Microsoft shows that more than one-third of U.S. households aren’t receiving broadband speeds.

Even in an age where smartphones have unlimited data plans, these poor and underserved communities are struggling to maintain consistent and reliable internet access. Although access to the internet is technically unlimited in these plans, service providers often restrict speeds to those that are far below modern standards.

The process of digital redlining isn’t restricted to internet accessibility. The world’s largest eCommerce site, Amazon, has even been accused of partaking in redlining with their same-day shipping service that’s available with Amazon Prime.

Unfortunately, since there aren’t any specific laws pertaining to digital redlining, there’s very little we can do about it – until now.

Joining the Movement Against Digital Redlining

Many prominent watchdog groups, civil rights activists, and organizations are joining the movement against digital redlining. Even current the current U.S. president is devoting $65 billion, spread out across the next eight years, to facilitate greater accessibility to broadband internet. But will it be enough?

After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the U.S. government step in to provide aide related to broadband internet. In May 2021, the government unveiled their Emergency Broadband Benefit to help people meet their online accessibility needs during the recent COVID pandemic. However, the benefit only amounted to $50.

In some cases, internet service providers are actually taking their own steps to increase broadband accessibility and affordability. Certain cities, including Los Angeles in California and Denver in Colorado, have seen budget-oriented broadband services for less than $20 per month.

As you can see, digital redlining is a very real issue that is currently happening in the United States of America. Although it doesn’t necessarily discriminate based on race, like traditional redlining did, digital redlining still tends to affected people of color at higher rates than others.

Luckily, the fight against digital redlining has some major support. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, has recently expressed their support of banning digital redlining. In doing so, they’ve joined up with dozens of organizations from all around the country – including the California Center for Rural Policy, Detroit Community Technology Project, Louisville Metro Office of Civic Innovation & Technology, Western New York Library Resources Council, and many more.


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