• Carlos Gutierrez, Dep. Director & General Counsel

Asymmetrical Broadband Speeds Support Quick, Equitable, and Inclusive Internet Access Expansion

Updated: 2 days ago

Even as our country begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the

challenges associated with today’s growing digital divide risk remaining with us

long-after the economic and public health hardships have been alleviated. Most

Americans are eager to return to normal, pre-pandemic life. But, as communities

continue to re-open, we should not walk back or stall the progress made in these

difficult months to get unserved and vulnerable populations online.


For the LGBTQ community, the internet has always been a vital tool to access

education, employment opportunities and health care. Today, 81% of LGBT youth

use the internet to search for health information and 80% of LGBTQ individuals use

the internet to connect with other members of the LGBT community via social

networking.


Unfortunately, far too many LGBTQ individuals lack access to high-speed internet,

especially those in hard-to reach areas. This is unacceptable when considering that

LGBTQ youth depend on broadband for the important tasks of identity formation

and accessing health resources and often rely on their phones for safety when faced

with challenges of crime or homelessness.


The pandemic has put existing tech and digital inequities on full display and

continues to exacerbate the struggles of already vulnerable communities that lack

internet connectivity. Each day we fail to provide unserved communities with access

to high-speed broadband is another missed opportunity to help them not only

become active players in the post-COVID recovery, but also to access life-saving

resources.


But the pandemic has also shed light on an often-overlooked fact that different

technologies and applications – like email, web surfing, music streaming or video-

conferencing – require different download and upload speeds. Internet speeds

needs for an urban-centered household with two adults working from home and two

children attending Zoom classes will certainly vary from that of an LGBTQ small

business owner in rural America.


Proposals to define “unserved areas” as those lacking a broadband connection

offering symmetric speeds – where the upload and download speeds are 100Mbps

in both directions – get it wrong. A shift toward symmetrical speeds will not only

drastically expand the areas deemed “unserved” but also limit available broadband

options and eliminate many highly viable alternatives such as 5G, LTE and cable

offering as much as a gig downstream.


We can’t meaningfully expand internet access with a one-size fit-all approach. A

move toward 100/100Mbps speeds as the threshold for determining who does and

does not have broadband would mean only about 42% of households currently have access to broadband. This will result in government dollars being directed to

overbuilding in already-connected areas – and the burden of this erroneous policy

will fall on the backs of unserved communities.


Proposals that favor symmetric speeds will fall short of the urgent demand to get

Americans online regardless of where they live or work. Going down this path only

makes it more difficult to connect those most in need, including people living in

sparsely populated areas with no fixed broadband solutions. As such, policymakers

must prioritize funding for broadband infrastructure that puts unserved households

on the map by effectively targeting funds to connect those without connectivity.

The internet was designed around the fact that many applications require much

higher download speeds than upload. It is important any investment in our

broadband infrastructure today is done with this important fact in mind. To create

the best online experience – with our family, friends, doctors, and colleagues – and

unlock the power of the digital economy, we must ensure that everyone has access

to high-speed internet as soon as possible.

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