In Essence, Civil Rights Leaders, FCC Commissioner Call for Universal Broadband Access

Contact: Charmaine Riley, [email protected], 202.548.7166

WASHINGTON – Alongside civil rights leaders, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission today outlined in Essence why the nation’s leadership must enact a robust plan to address the digital divide exacerbated by COVID-19. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Geoffrey Starks, FCC commissioner, Reverend Al Sharpton, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, and Maurita Coley, president and CEO of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, address how lack of access to broadband excludes communities, especially those of color, from vital resources such as educational and telemedicine programs, as well as employment opportunities.

“The alarming current and forecasted impacts of COVID-19 show us that the people can no longer wait for connectivity. Now is the time to come together to ensure all communities have access to affordable and reliable broadband,” the leaders wrote. “We must acknowledge that systemic barriers, including affordability, are preventing communities of color from adopting broadband.”

“The internet is also a powerful tool for building movements—from allowing our communities to share our narratives in new ways to amplifying mobilizing efforts,” the leaders said. “Online activism is a critical part of how we shared stories about the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and so many more. Connectivity helps bend the arc of history toward justice.”

As noted in the piece, 34 percent of Black adults, 39 percent of Latino adults, and 47 percent of those on tribal lands do not have a home broadband connection, compared to the 21 percent of White adults who do not have broadband at home.

The full piece can be read here.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit