The outbreak of COVID-19 and the events that have followed have reminded us of the inequities that persist in our society. Sadly, public health data suggests that racial and ethnic minorities are suffering disproportionately, experiencing higher rates of infection, death, and economic dislocation.
In addition to dealing with the health and economic impacts of the virus, members of the AAPI community in the U.S. are confronting unfounded and unfair racist and prejudice attitudes. In fact, hate crimes against Asian Americans have soared since the outbreak. As Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) has always worked towards an equitable and unified world, addressing these issues is of the utmost urgency for our organization.
Even in this challenging time, there is cause for optimism – rooted in the power of technological innovation to help address the unprecedented social and economic hardships facing our society. Specifically, expanding access to broadband internet service will yield dividends for the millions of Americans that depend on it to work and learn from home, search for up-to-date public health and safety information, and to carry on with daily life under this “new normal.”
Many members of the Asian and Pacific Islander American community have stayed at home for the past few months to flatten the curve and reduce the spread the of the virus. For those of us with access, broadband has been the thread that has allowed us to remain prosperous during the pandemic and has even helped us maintain some sense of normalcy. Broadband has connected millions of Americans to work, education, entertainment and healthcare on a scale that had never existed before. In fact, at the height of the crisis, internet traﬃc jumped 27 percent.
Although broadband has proved to be reliable throughout the pandemic for those with access to it, those without access have found themselves to be more disadvantaged than ever before. The result has been catastrophic for these individuals and has left small businesses closed, K-12 students academically behind and patients without critical care.
Due to structural disparities, many Americans cannot afford broadband service or cannot access it where they live. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 18 million people lack broadband internet service. Additionally, other experts have found that 15 percent of households with school-aged children do not have access to a high-speed internet connection at home. This crisis has made it clear that all Americans need access to reliable broadband. We must ask our lawmakers to work towards effective solutions that address these structural inequalities.
The COVID-19 outbreak has left Americans begging for a sense of normalcy. If we can achieve universal broadband, we can emerge from this crisis better than before – better than “normal.” Access to the internet allows us to obtain information from credible experts that will help keep all communities safe, it helps us receive news and media so we can hold our leaders accountable, and most importantly it bridges societal gaps that currently leave too many Americans behind.
The time to act is now. The Asian Pacific Islander American community must come together and demand a more equal playing field for all. That means calling on our elected officials in Washington to take concrete actions to invest in our nation’s digital infrastructure and make universal broadband a reality for the communities that most need it.