Civil rights icon Reverend Jesse Jackson and Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks were two of the headliners in Rainbow Push’s annual symposium on tech and telecom policy. Next Century Cities’ Executive Director, Francella Ochillo, joined former NTIA chief, Larry Irving, and the President & CEO of Public Knowledge, on a panel discussion moderated by Aspen Institute’s Dr. Dominique Harrison. 

Commissioner Starks opened the November 19, 2020, discussion with eloquent remarks on the trickle down effect of the digital divide. He stated that, “our failure to create inclusive policies that close the digital divide has done serious harm to the Americans who were already struggling to put food on their tables prior to the pandemic. The failures of our past, however, do not have to dictate the future.” 

In light of the conference theme, “Charting A Path Forward for Digital Education and Economic Inclusion,” Francella echoed the Commissioner’s remarks on how the digital divide and the economic opportunity divide run parallel to one another. She explained that poverty, food insecurity, and housing insecurity are all indicators of which populations are in greatest need of connectivity solutions. Likewise, reliable and widespread broadband connectivity helps to support resilient communities. It also provides households with economic mobility, improves educational outcomes, creates health care opportunities, and promotes civic engagement.