Building for the Future: Advancing Digital Competitiveness through Broadband Access and Adoption

Nicol Turner Lee's statement to the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth

Broadband cables
Editor's note:

On February 9, 2022, Nicol Turner Lee, director of The Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, testified before the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth during a panel entitled, “Connecting Americans to Prosperity: How Infrastructure can Bolster Inclusive Economic Growth.” In her testimony, Turner Lee discussed recommendations to advance competitiveness through closing the digital divide.

Chairman Himes, Ranking Member Steil, and distinguished members of the House Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth, thank you for the invitation to testify as part of today’s discussion on critical infrastructure, particularly the deployment, adoption, and use of high-speed broadband networks. I am Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies and Director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.

With a history of over 100 years, Brookings is committed to evidence-based, nonpartisan research in a range of focus areas. My research encompasses data collection and analysis around regulatory and legislative policies that govern telecommunications and high-tech industries, along with the impacts of broadband access, the digital divide, artificial intelligence, and machine-learning algorithms on vulnerable consumers. My forthcoming book, Digitally invisible: How the internet is creating the new underclass (Brookings, 2022), addresses these topics and more. Today, I come before you with my own opinions.

Let me start my testimony by applauding the White House and Congress for prioritizing efforts to close the digital divide and positioning high-speed broadband alongside other critical infrastructure assets like water, transport, and electricity. The global pandemic has surfaced the importance of online connectivity as millions obliged the calls for physical social distancing and transitioned online for remote work, school, health care, government services, and regular communications with friends and family members. As technology becomes more ubiquitously available and affordable for Americans of all socio-economic levels, it will become a game-changer for how citizens transact and interact in their daily lives, and will be foundational to the development of inclusive economic growth in the U.S.

Continue reading the full testimony here. Watch the full video of Turner Lee’s testimony (starting around the 23:12 mark) and the rest of the hearing below.