In a rousing address before the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Morial proclaimed that the public interest should lie at the heart of all American policymaking.
Whether the focus is on Voter ID laws or a revised iteration of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the ‘public interest’ must be clearly defined such that diversity, equality and economic opportunity are the hallmarks of any legislative or regulatory efforts.
“Internet access and deployment…is a fundamental part of economic advancement, quality of life and human survival in the 21st century,” Morial told an attentive audience during MMTC’s Access to Capital Luncheon. Likewise, the ability to exercise one’s right to vote is a fundamental privilege of American citizenship.
Just as Morial decried those who seek to impose Voter ID laws – which disproportionately impact minorities, students and senior citizens – as a means of suppressing the vote, he likewise criticized the failure to adopt telecommunications policy crafted for a digital age.
The Internet is an “instrument of global connectivity and cooperation,” he declared. Therefore, “it’s in the public’s best interest to advance digital literacy and provide minority and women owned businesses opportunities for success.”
Morial’s address reflected the ways in which civil rights and social justice intersect with the online world. Presently, global forces are changing and economic growth increasingly depends on digital engagement.
Just as policymakers are charged with safeguarding the American right to vote, they should also enable people the opportunity to achieve in the Internet economy. Morial also suggested that policymakers should find ways to incentivize businesses to become job creators and facilitators of increased participation by women and minorities in this space.
As such, Morial recommended the development of a new telecommunications act, complete with a redefined public interest standard, which was the driving principle of both the 1934 and 1996 Telecommunications Acts.
By his estimate, the new public interest standard should focus on diversity of employment, media ownership, increased participation by minorities and women in the media and telecommunications sectors, and closing the digital divide.
According to Morial, universal broadband access is key to full participation in modern society. Moreover, wireless engagement is an integral part of ensuring that all Americans have a fair and equal opportunity to participate in the digital economy because it helps alleviate some of the affordability concerns created by fixed-line broadband services.
On the heels of the National Urban League’s Annual Conference Morial’s message was clear: “We want everybody to be a champion,” and to do that, the public interest standard must be crafted to ensure that everyone can receive the benefit of full access and meaningful use of broadband.