NHMC’s Jessica J. Gonzalez To Testify Before U.S. Senate In Support Of Closing The Digital Divide
WASHINGTON — This morning, the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s (NHMC) executive vice president and general counsel, Jessica J. Gonzalez, will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. The subject of the hearing is Lifeline, a federal initiative designed to make basic communications services affordable for poor families.
Lifeline subsidizes landline or wireless phone service for low-income families, as well as some limited voice and broadband bundles. It was significantly reformed to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in 2012.
NHMC has advocated for Lifeline to further evolve to include access to meaningful broadband services to help close the digital divide. Currently, 30% of Americans lack home broadband. Those without home broadband are disproportionately poor, Latino, African American, Native Americans, rural, and/or seniors. Cost is the main barrier to adoption for people under sixty-five years of age. At the same time, broadband is critical to nearly every facet of modern American life, including education, employment, healthcare, civic participation, and more.
The following excerpts are from Gonzalez’s oral testimony, which will be presented at the hearing tomorrow:
“As a former Lifeline recipient, I know firsthand how effective and life-changing it can be. In 2004, after being laid off from my teaching job, I was on Lifeline for a short time. With my subscription, I was able to list a reliable phone number on my resume, and use my phone to communicate with the law school admissions and financial aid offices that ultimately made it possible for me to become an attorney.
“As a former public school teacher, I would be remiss not to underscore how the digital divide is creating strikingly unequal provision of public education across this great country. FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel has raised concerns about what she calls the Homework Gap. That is, that seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires broadband access, yet, one in three households do not subscribe, including five million households with school-aged children. Nearly 100% of high school students say they are required to access the Internet to complete homework. Nearly 50% have been unable to do so and 42% say they received a lower grade because of lack of Internet access.
“Lifeline already provides many with a pathway out of poverty. In fact, over 4.2 million households represented by members of this subcommittee alone, currently rely on Lifeline telephone service; an estimated 90% of them are without broadband.
“I will be forever grateful for the investments that this country made in my future, and I will fight to give opportunity to my fellow Americans. Modernizing Lifeline for the digital age, is, I believe, one such fight.”
NHMC supports the Federal Communication Commission’s upcoming rulemaking proceeding on the subject and the Broadband Adoption Act of 2015, recent legislation introduced by Representative Matsui (D-CA), Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on this issue.
Nearly 70 national and regional civil rights organizations, policymakers, media rights advocates and other community groups have recently gone on the record in support of modernizing the Lifeline Program.
The hearing before the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet will be convened on Tuesday, June 2 at 9:30 a.m in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. A live stream of the hearing will be available at this link. To access the written testimony, click here.
You can follow the conversation on Twitter by following @NHMC, @JGonzalezNHMC, and @michaelscurato.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a media advocacy and civil rights organization for the advancement of Latinos, working towards a media that is fair and inclusive of Latinos, and towards universal, affordable, and open access to communications. Learn more at www.nhmc.org. Receive real-time updates on Facebook and Twitter @NHMC.