ACLU Commends the FCC’s New Regulations to End Digital Discrimination

November 15, 2023 12:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union commends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today on approving new rules to prevent the digital discrimination of broadband access. The FCC’s new rules reflect the ACLU’s advocacy, calling upon the FCC to adopt a discriminatory impact standard, which will enable the commission to protect consumers who haven’t been offered high-quality reliable internet — no matter the reason.

“The FCC’s digital discrimination rules will hold internet service providers accountable for putting profit over people, and bring the victims of digital discrimination one step closer to having high-speed, reliable internet,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the ACLU. “The FCC can now uphold what we know to be true: that access to information is critical and should not be restricted based on income or race. We celebrate the FCC establishing rules to ensure fair internet access for all.”

Congress directed the FCC to create regulations to “facilitate equal access to broadband” and “prevent digital discrimination” in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Congress adopted this law, on a bipartisan basis, in response to numerous reports of internet service providers refusing to invest in low-income communities. As a direct result of their failure to invest in “less profitable” communities, the residents of these communities are routinely forced to pay more money for slower service, if they are able to connect at all.

The last public version of these rules were slated to protect millions of vulnerable Americans by enabling the FCC to address internet service provider policies or practices that have a discriminatory impact on protected classes — even if there is no evidence of intentional discrimination. However, during today’s vote, two commissioners noted a new provision that will exempt internet service providers who comply with regulations tied to the receipt of certain federal broadband deployment grants from adhering to these rules. This safe harbor could limit the amount of people protected from digital discrimination, and raises concerns regarding our right to access the internet.

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