WASHINGTON – The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt strong rules against digital discrimination in a filing with the agency today.
Effective, clear, and practical rules prohibiting Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminatory practices that harm vulnerable communities are key to the Biden Administration’s efforts to close the digital divide across America.
“Strong rules are needed to identify and remedy unequal access to Internet service, no matter what the cause may be,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson. “Rules that combat these inequities will bring lasting relief for vulnerable communities that historically have been left behind online.”
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.
NTIA is the Executive Branch agency most squarely focused on achieving digital equity. As the President’s principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy, NTIA is charged with developing, coordinating, and presenting Executive Branch views to the Federal Communications Commission.
About the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, advancing public safety communications, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.