DLA Piper advised on a pro bono basis the National Urban League, a historic civil rights organisation dedicated to economic empowerment that elevates the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities, on its development of the framework of a comprehensive agenda aimed at leveraging the tools of the information economy to create a more equitable and inclusive society.
The Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion includes steps such as deploying broadband networks everywhere in the country, connecting every household to broadband networks, utilising the networks to improve delivery of essential services and creating new opportunities for underserved communities to participate in the growth of the digital economy. The plan is named for Lewis Howard Latimer, a 19th-century draftsman, soldier, scientist and researcher whose parents were born into slavery and who worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the development of telephones and with Thomas Edison on electric lighting.
Under the Latimer Plan, the Federal Communications Commission would re-examine network performance standards, pinpoint areas without any broadband network, eliminate restrictions that disqualify providers who could deliver service quickly and efficiently, and allocate subsidies necessary to close the availability gap. The plan recommends the creation of a federal Office of Digital Equity to coordinate training, as well as a major restructuring of the FCC’s Lifeline Program, which subsidises communication services for low-income households.
“If adopted, the Latimer Plan would improve how our country delivers healthcare, education, job training and other government services in ways that will benefit all Americans, especially those in marginalised communities,” said Edward “Smitty” Smith, a partner in DLA Piper’s Telecom practice who advised the National Urban League.
The plan also would require companies that benefit from federal investment to improve access to economic opportunity, and it would direct the Department of Commerce and the FCC to collect information that allows the government and the public to understand and evaluate how the private sector is improving diversity, equity and inclusion.