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Geoffrey Starks: Here’s Where We Go from Here

FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks says broadband can help bridge the digital divide and heal the racial divide as well.

Geoffrey Starks

Geoffrey Starks

During a webinar with USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter, Starks was asked about his assertion that connectivity can help bend the arc toward justice, a reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s hopeful observation that the arc of the universe was long, but was bending toward justice.

For many raising their voices in protest, that arc has become the “too long” response to the “how long” call.

Spalter said the Black Lives Matter movement has shed new light on the divisions and pain in the country and sparked a needed conversation about racial justice. Starks has said connectivity helps bend that arc toward justice and Spalter asked him to elaborate on that in the context of “where we go from here.”

Starks said he believes that the country is in the midst not just of a moment, but of a movement. He said there is “no one way to be Black in America” and that each Black person has a unique and personal story about what that has meant.

But there is a shared experience and common thread, he said, calling it a bond that has been tightened over the past few weeks because of a lot of shared emotions of fear and frustration over a long time. But there was shared hope, Starks continued, with broadband connectivity one of the things that can help communities share all of those things.

Starks said there are vectors that will have to change in the long term, which was Dr. Martin Luther King’s point about the arc of the universe.

Starks said housing, education and public health are all big focuses during the pandemic, but “internet inequality” must also be a focus, because with respect to education, economic opportunity and the eventual reopening of the economy, “people will not be going back to a physical location to find jobs. They will be applying online.” Digital connectivity will be essential for the millions who will need to re-engage with the workforce.

Broadband access is a civil right that we can’t afford not to have but one that many can’t afford to have, he said, and that must change.