- Carlos Gutierrez, Dep. Director & General Counsel
Mobile Internet Keeps the LGBT Community Connected
Every day, LGBTQ+ individuals turn to the internet for their basic needs – and to know they are not alone. Often, the internet is where members of our community find safe spaces to form identity, build bonds, and create lifelong connections. We’ve seen the impact ourselves, with over a third of LGBT individuals aged 18-24 saying they used a mobile device in their coming out process.
The inclusiveness of the internet gives those within our community a chance to better navigate a society which at times can be exclusive and stigmatic. When we get devices into the hands of LGBT individuals, our community strengthens and grows. Through LGBT Tech’s PowerOn Program, we’ve witnessed what’s possible when we connect the LGBTQ+ community.
We have distributed 242 wireless devices (out of a total of 247 devices) to date in 2022. These devices are used to offer drop-in services, support groups, computer labs, and emergency services in locations across the USA. Mobile devices can be used for everything from researching preventive health information to finding
LGBTQ+ support services.
Our mobile devices – and much more – rely on spectrum to keep us connected. Spectrum powers everything from the colors we see on our phone to the sounds we hear on TV. Earlier this year, we wrote about the urgent need to bring more spectrum to the masses, so no one is left behind in the technology race.
We’re at an inflection point in the technology race, and Americans – especially those in marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ+ community – risk falling behind if policymakers don’t ensure spectrum needs are met. LGBTQ+ individuals, especially vulnerable and marginalized LGBTQ+ individuals, rely heavily on wireless
technologies such as mobile phones, so delivering more wireless spectrum for mobile broadband should be a top priority.
One place to start is by replenishing what’s known as the spectrum pipeline. Currently, the Biden administration is working on identifying a pipeline of new spectrum so our devices can keep up with evolving needs. Think of things like augmented reality, connected cars, and virtual reality. All those innovations are powered by wireless spectrum, and we need a pipeline to make them possible.
From our perspective, there are two simple steps we can take to get started:
1. Renew the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority. Since 1993, the FCC has had the authority to auction wireless spectrum so private companies can keep innovating. Spectrum helped the U.S. gain an early lead in the evolution of cellular networks and delivered 4G, the gig economy, and now 5G. The FCC’s auction authority expires soon, and it would be a disservice to mobile users if Congress failed to act.
2. Allocate additional licensed and unlicensed spectrum. More spectrum helps reduce network congestion and increase capacity. That makes for networks that are more reliable, robust, available, and accessible for everyone. For LGBTQ+ people living in rural areas, mobile internet powered by spectrum is a vital lifeline for youth negotiating an LGBTQ+ identity as well as access to community, telehealth and employment.
Mobile internet backed by spectrum has the potential to connect LGBTQ+ individuals with powerful tools to overcome everyday challenges and mitigate some of the stigma impacting the LGBTQ+ community. While not a cure-all, adding more spectrum to the pipeline will go a long way towards connecting the LGBTQ+ community and getting help into the hands of those who need it most.