Updated: Oct 7, 2020
The early Internet was characterized by the screechy sounds of dial-up modems and archaic websites that took minutes — not seconds — to load. Even in the early days, LGBT communities eagerly embraced the Internet and broadband technologies, seeing them as resources to help us overcome challenges and improve our lives. People from all walks of life have benefited from broadband or the “always-on” high-speed connections to the Internet. But for LGBT communities, Internet connectivity has become a lifeline that has eased isolation and empowered and emboldened us. The ability to connect with others regardless of distance has forged a greater sense of community that many LGBT individuals previously lacked. The Internet has provided resources and information to promote tolerance, fight discrimination, recruit allies, and discover romance. Seniors in isolated or rural communities are able to connect with each other and services like SAGE, and LGBT youth in crisis discover that they aren’t alone after all. Over time, connection speeds have increased, as has broadband adoption. Throughout this period, broadband access has continued to play an important role for our communities. LGBT communities and individuals have harnessed the power of broadband connectivity and used it to share our stories and educate ourselves and others about the issues and challenges that LGBT communities face, and in turn we have changed hearts and minds in the course of our efforts. LGBT communities have used broadband to amplify and extend outreach efforts, particularly those aimed at LGBT youth. Over 50,000 user-created videos have been added to the “It Gets Better” Project, offering messages of support and hope to LGBT young people across the globe. Mobile broadband access plays a huge role in providing young LGBT individuals access to accurate health information and resources like the Trevor Project to help them deal with bullying or homelessness. In such situations, broadband access can, quite literally, become a lifeline for LGBT youth. Broadband has also changed the process of coming out for many of us. Face-to-face conversations are no longer the only, or even most common, method of sharing this personal information with loved ones and our broader circles. Today LGBT people can record video messages to friends and family or post their stories on personal blogs and include links to educational resources. Today’s technology has provided a variety of creative new ways to share our stories. While our communities have benefited from broadband, many outstanding policy questions about broadband infrastructure and mobile technology remain and have the potential to directly impact our lives. Expanding availability of enhanced broadband service must be a priority. Upgrading and expanding our country’s broadband infrastructure is essential to delivering the speeds, capabilities, and services of the future. Accelerating this process, as well as ensuring that companies can obtain the spectrum needed to meet consumer demand, will further spur innovations and development of new applications that can help the LGBT cause and improve the lives of people in our communities across the country. As we strive to upgrade and modernize our country’s broadband infrastructure to meet ever-growing consumer demand, LGBT communities should speak up to make sure that our needs and hopes are addressed. That’s why, last week, the LGBT Technology Partnership held its first-ever public policy forum addressing key technology issues affecting our communities. Our forum, titled “The Future of Broadband, Security, and Privacy for LGBT Communities,” featured two discussion panels that highlighted topics vital to us, including confidentiality and privacy, broadband access, the future of broadband, and online safety. This event brought together a number of policy makers, technology experts, and LGBT leaders for the first time, and it was an opportunity for an open dialogue about the impact of these policies on our people. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai delivered the keynote address, encouraging our communities and leaders to learn about and get involved in shaping policies. From the dial-up modems of yesteryear to the lightning-fast broadband networks of today’s digital age, technology has come a long way — and so have we. Our LGBT communities are more visible than ever, and we’re using technology to build connections, change minds, and secure equal rights. By having a voice in technology policy, we can ensure that our concerns are heard and that we continue to benefit from advances in broadband, and that is the underlying mission of the LGBT Technology Partnership. Join the conversations and be part of the next forum by following us on Facebook and on Twitter @LGBTTech. This blog was originally posted on Huffington Post.