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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

U.S. Rep. Lawrence and FCC Commissioner Starks Prioritize Digital Equity in State of Michigan, Host Virtual Event on Broadband Access

May 7, 2020
Press Release

Detroit, MI- Today, U.S. Representative Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14) and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks hosted a virtual event on closing the digital divide, Connecting Michigan: From Internet Inequality to Digital Equity. The virtual event highlighted the glaring inequities the digital divide presents low-income and underrepresented families in the city of Detroit and other cities across the state of Michigan, and featured several panelists including U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) and Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

“The ongoing spread of COVID-19 has disrupted daily life and made clear that high-speed internet access is not a luxury, but a necessity. In the state of Michigan, over 360,000 households lack access to broadband, and in the city of Detroit, while at home, more than 60 percent of school children lack internet service, making it nearly impossible to continue their studies,” said Rep. Lawrence. “The digital divide threatens the short- and long-term growth of our most vulnerable children and students and will further contribute to the nation’s economic inequality if not addressed. Breaking down barriers to affordability and accessibility is an important step forward to ensure all Americans across the country have an equitable opportunity to receive a high-quality education, work remotely, and or even establish an online platform or business.”

 “It is evident that the digital divide has morphed into a monstrous COVID-19 divide and it has impacted our most marginalized communities.  Today’s important and timely discussion gave officials from the federal, state, and local governments and the public interest community a unique opportunity to put forth policy solutions for closing the digital divide in Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the United States,” said Commissioner Starks. “We must act swiftly to connect all Americans, and craft real solutions for low-income households that must have affordable and reliable broadband.”

“Broadband access is an issue that binds together urban, suburban and rural communities,” Rep. Slotkin said. “We have to start thinking about internet access as a public utility – like electricity, water or telephone service, it’s something that we all require to function in a modern society. And yet too many homes in my district and across Michigan lack access to reliable internet service, lack service with the bandwidth equal to the demands of school or work, or lack devices that allow them to interact with the internet. COVID-19 has stretched these inequalities even farther, and this crisis is a moment to recognize the impact that has on students, workers and families.”

“The internet is the most enabling infrastructure we can create and invest in — and it’s up to us to make sure that everyone has the ability to gain from this tremendous technology,” Lt. Governor Gilchrist said. “If we are going to close the internet gap, we need to tackle the barriers of access, affordability, and digital literacy to fully enable the opportunities that the internet makes possible.”

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Background:                                                                                       

  • On May 7th, U.S. Representative Brenda L. Lawrence and FCC Commissioner Starks hosted a virtual event titled Connecting Michigan: From Internet Inequality to Digital Equity;

 

  • The purpose of the event was to explore how the digital divide has heightened already existing inequities that impact the city of Detroit and other similarly situated cities in Michigan and throughout the United States;

 

  • Panelists of the event presented solutions for addressing the digital divide on a local, state, and federal level and particularly focused on the urgent matter of connecting children, low-income communities, and communities of color to affordable and reliable broadband; and

 

  • Panelists included:
    • U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin (MI-08); 
    • Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist;
    • Amina Fazlullah from Common Sense Media;
    • Joshua Edmonds from the City of Detroit; and
    • Angela Siefer from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.