New York, NY- January 31, 2012: The Center for Social Inclusion (CSI) and Mississippi State Conference NAACP released a landmark report today entitled “Broadband in Mississippi: Toward Policies for Access Equity”. This groundbreaking report shows that the implementation of aggressive and fair broadband infrastructure policies is critical for the future well-being of Mississippi, which ranks among the lowest in the United States for accessibility and reliability of broadband service. It shows that urban and rural African American communities and rural communities in general tend to have less access to affordable, reliable broadband service either because it simply is not available where they live or because it is priced beyond reach. The report demonstrates that targeted investments in broadband within communities of color, low-income co mmunities and rural areas in Mississippi is critical to creating jobs, improving educational outcomes and enhancing health services, which will lay the groundwork for a vibrant economy that will benefit all residents of Mississippi.
The report found specifically that Mississippi residents as a whole must choose among older, slower and less reliable technologies compared to the rest of the country. Mississippi falls below the national average in terms of access to wireline broadband technologies. The state ranks 48th among all the states and territories in availability of broadband technology.
Nationwide, 82.2% of Americans have access to cable broadband, but only 42.2% of Mississippians have such access. 14.5% of Americans have access to high-speed Internet by way of fiber optic connections, only 12.5% of Mississippians are similarly situated. National Broadband Map data indicates that when it comes to access to Digital Subscriber Line (“DSL”) technology Mississippi ranks 49th among all states and US territories.
The number of broadband access providers in a particular region of the state had a direct impact on accessibility. An analysis by county and race and ethnicity reveals that communities where people of color are the majority have the fewest provider options. Of the top ten counties in the state, all places where more than 90% of the population has access to four or more service providers, only one—Hinds County—has a population of color that is greater than 50%.
Areas with greater numbers of Internet providers also tended to have more jobs and small businesses than those with fewer providers. In areas with four to seven high speed Internet providers per zip code, for example, there were 378 businesses on average. In communities with one to three providers, an average of 55 businesses were found and where there were zero providers per zip code, there were a striking seven businesses on average.
Affordability and the cost of broadband service varied by region and were affected by race. A study done by Mississippi State University Extension Service found that 46% of Mississippians, who do not have home internet service, could not afford it because of the cost that providers have set. The CSI/ Mississippi NAACP report found that residential broadband costs in that state range from 1% to 6% of the median household income of African-American families, compared to 0.5% to 3% of median household income of whites in the state.
The social and policy effects of the lack of connectivity for rural families and families of color in Mississippi are equally as striking, according to the report. Lack of broadband access has profound implications on African Americans and Latino residents. Lack of access affects their ability to search and apply for jobs, access and research healthcare options, apply for government services and stay informed about local and national news developments. Also, children and adults’ capacity to learn suffers significantly when they cannot access the Internet.
The report urges Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Mississippi state legislators to take the following steps in reforming state broadband infrastructure policies:
• Invest in demonstration projects that make faster, more reliable broadband technologies more widely available and affordable, particularly for communities of color in the state;
• Hold carriers supported by the newly-reformed Universal Service Fund accountable for building broadband infrastructure in the rural communities and communities of color where it is most needed;
• Establish Community Task Forces in unserved and underserved areas to help shape innovative models of infrastructure delivery and future state policies and support sustainable adoption.
Maya Wiley, President of the Center for Social Inclusion, stated, “At a time when Mississippians need jobs, better schools and health care, it is critical that Mississippi innovate local broadband deployment that is fair and helps everyone in the state get connected, including its black citizens. The future of Mississippi is at stake.”
Derrick Johnson, State President of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP, added, “In Mississippi, the most rural state in the nation and the state with the highest percentage of African Americans, we must implement aggressive and fair broadband infrastructure policies in order to bring Mississippi into the 21st century economy.”
To arrange an interview with Maya Wiley from CSI and Derrick Johnson from the Mississippi NAACP or learn more about broadband equity in this report, contact Eric Katzman from The TASC Group at 646-723-4344 or email@example.com. For a version of the report, go to www.centerforsocialinclusion.org.
About the Center for Social Inclusion: The Center for Social Inclusion works to unite public policy research and grassroots advocacy to transform structural inequity and exclusion into structural fairness and inclusion. We work with community groups and national organizations to develop policy ideas, foster effective leadership, and develop communications tools for an opportunity-rich world in which we all will thrive. Visit www.centerforsocialinclusion.org.
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