No one can achieve the American Dream without access to communications services. Without quality telephone and broadband service, individuals in today’s society cannot apply for a job, access healthcare or government services, call 9-1-1, or do something as simple as staying in in touch with loved ones. Advanced communications technologies like wireless phone service and broadband should be high quality, available to all, and affordable regardless of income. And the telecommunications industry must be responsive to the nation’s growing communities of color.
Communities of color pay a disproportionate amount of their income towards cell-phone and other telecommunications services. Meanwhile, industry consolidation threatens to eliminate wireless companies that market specifically to communities of color.
Telecommunications companies are not maintaining their traditional copper networks, upon which many still depend, leading to outages and degraded service quality. At the same time, these companies are using their lobbying muscle to exempt digital phone service from consumer protection standards, which could result in fewer safety and affordability protections. Access to broadband continues to lag in communities of color, and broadband continues to be unaffordable for too many. In addition, the free and open Internet we have come to depend on is in danger unless the Federal Communications Commission takes strong action to protect it.
Greenlining gives a voice to communities of color and working families at the agencies that
regulate communications: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the California
Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). We also work directly with telecommunications
companies to ensure that they consider the diverse needs of communities of color in their
investment decisions. We focus on the following critical areas:
- Access and Affordability – We closely monitor corporate deals, Federal Communications Commission or California Public Utilities Commission actions, and legislation that could affect price and access or otherwise harm consumers. Major changes happening in telecommunications, particularly the technological transition from analog to digital phone networks, could threaten vital consumer protections. Our work ensures that low-income consumers and communities of color have access to affordable, quality phone service, whether that service is traditional wireline service, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or wireless.
Additionally, we work to make sure that everyone has access to quality, affordable broadband services. Small businesses and less wealthy consumers could be relegated to Internet “slow lanes” unless action is taken to preserve a free and open Internet, a concern we warned about in 2012. We energetically support net neutrality principles with state and federal regulatory bodies as well as legislators.
- Telecommunications Supplier Diversity – Greenlining is a strong advocate for programs that encourage large companies to do business with minority small businesses. The CPUC’s supplier diversity program, governed by General Order 156, represents an outstanding model. Greenlining monitors the impact of this program, issuing an updated report every spring, and works to expand the use of the GO 156 model in other fields as a way of bringing investments to communities of color.
- Strategic Partnerships – Greenlining works with other organizations to provide expertise and support on issues involving the impacts of telecommunications policy on communities of color and low-income communities.