Connecting the AAPI Community in the 118th Congress

January 11, 2023

As the 118th Congress kicks off, the International Leadership Foundation (ILF) is focused on ensuring that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community can access and benefit from recent infrastructure investments. These funds could provide millions of AAPI families and individuals with access to increased opportunities through focused broadband investments. Over the next few years, one of ILF’s priorities will be ensuring that infrastructure funds are invested wisely.

To accomplish this goal, we encourage Congress to conduct appropriate oversight to ensure grant recipients are properly vetted and have the resources and technical ability to complete complex infrastructure projects. Additionally, it is important to foster an inclusive process throughout broadband buildouts to ensure that the AAPI community has access to the same opportunities as everyone else. By coordinating deployments based on the FCC broadband maps, we can prioritize closing the connectivity gap for unserved and underserved locations in the AAPI community.

Another key recommendation is to continue to advance broadband affordability. The ILF believes that the 118th Congress should deliver a permanent Affordability Connectivity Program (ACP) that makes broadband available to eligible households through a low-cost option. Furthermore, reforming the Universal Service Fund will also go a long way in bridging the affordability gap, especially among the roughly 1 in 10 AAPIs who do not have access to computers and broadband. We believe that Congress should work with the FCC to expand the base of USF contributors to include the greatest beneficiaries of high-speed networks, such as internet edge providers and platforms. These companies should also responsibly and accountably contribute to the nation’s goal of connecting the unconnected.

We cannot overlook the fact that the AAPI community also experiences a digital divide due to language barriers. 38% of Asian Americans report that they speak English less than very well. For this reason, non-English speakers can find difficulty in utilizing programs like the ACP that aid in paying for broadband. Addressing these linguistic barriers to accessing broadband can help ensure that all members of the AAPI community can fully participate in the digital economy. We also support doubling down on digital skills investments through community-led projects that help those who remain offline connect with broadband’s many resources and opportunities.

Lastly, data privacy is also a major concern for the ILF. The lack of regulation over how data is collected and protected on the internet leaves the AAPI community at risk from data breaches unless there are consistent guidelines in place. We believe that the 118th Congress should build upon the bipartisan constructs of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) and deliver consistent privacy protections for consumers, as well as uniformity and clarity for all entities connecting with them online.

While the next two years will be critical to expanding internet access, infrastructure investments indicate a bright future lies ahead. By investing federal infrastructure funds wisely, advancing broadband affordability, reforming universal service, and establishing privacy standards, we can ensure that no one is left behind in the digital age. The ILF looks forward to working with Congress to redouble our collective efforts in pursuing this critical national objective.