COVID-19 has exacerbated a range of systemic inequalities impacting communities of color. Simultaneously, the public health crisis has made clear the need to recognize broadband access as a household necessity, like food and housing. As the incoming Biden Administration works to address income, educational, workforce, and health care divides, prioritizing broadband access and reforming the mechanisms that drive its deployment and adoption will be key. Sweeping changes to broadband access should be captured in a Tech New Deal, one that can bring economic prosperity to Black America, which has been disproportionately impacted before and during the pandemic.
Since the early 1980s, the Universal Service Fund (USF) has been one such driver that targets infrastructure, affordability, and access to rural telehealth services. Today, the USF needs to be reformed to reflect both the urgency and need to make such support more easily available. Black founders of tech start-ups will also play an important role in a Tech New Deal, particularly if they are supported to identify and create new opportunities that leverage digital infrastructure. Most importantly, the nation’s economic recovery will be motivated by people’s ability to get back to work in highly digitized industries. Ensuring that displaced workers are prepared to reemerge with the skills needed in the new economy will be important to these efforts.
On January 6, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a webinar to discuss a Tech New Deal and the benefits of a coordinated plan for Black Americans. Expert panelists examined the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Black communities and discussed why policies that focus on broadband infrastructure, workforce development and jobs, and robust start-ups are crucial to the nation’s economic recovery.