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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission has enacted new rules intended to eliminate discrimination in access to internet services, a move which regulators are calling the first major U.S. digital civil rights policy.
The rules package, which the commission ratified on Wednesday, would empower the agency to review and investigate instances of discrimination by broadband providers to different communities based on income, race, ethnicity and other protected classes.
The order also provides a framework for the FCC to crack down a range of digital inequities including the disparities in the investment of services for different neighborhoods, as well as the “digital divide,” a term experts use to describe the complete lack of internet access many communities experience due to regional or socioeconomic inequality.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that Congress required the agency to adopt rules addressing digital discrimination, through bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed at the start of the Biden administration.
“The digital divide puts us at an economic disadvantage as a country and disproportionately affects communities of color, lower-income areas, and rural areas,” Rosenworcel said in a statement to The Associated Press.
“We know broadband is essential infrastructure for modern life, and these rules will bring us one step closer to ensuring everyone has access to the internet, no matter who they are or where they live,” she said.
Poorer, less white neighborhoods were found to have received lower investment in broadband infrastructure and offered worse deals for internet service than comparatively whiter and higher-income areas. That inequity