September 12, 2013

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We Are Awarding a Research Stipend to “The National Broadband Plan – An LGBT Perspective”


The Internet is changing our economy, culture, and community really, really fast. It’s changing it so fast that we may not be entirely aware of how our world is changing, or how we can keep up. That’s why our Research Program on Digital Communication grants stipends to scholars to pursue research that helps us – and the world – understand the benefits and challenges facing digital technologies in the home, office, classroom and community.

Last week we awarded a $20,000 grant to “The National Broadband Plan – An LGBT Perspective,” written in collaboration by the LGBT Technology Partnership and Jessie Daniels, PhD. Jessie is a professor of Public Health, Sociology, and Environmental Psychology at Hunter College in New York City.

From our press release:

The project will increase understanding of the broadband and digital communications needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities and provide recommendations on how government policy makers can address those needs and ensure inclusion of those communities in the full benefits of broadband.

We reached out to Chris Wood and Joseph Kapp of the LGBT Technology Partnership earlier this week to talk a little more about what this really means.

According to Kapp:

“The really obvious issue is that we certainly want to help take an active stance against cyberbullying.

But there’s more.

LGBT people have long been persecuted, marginalized, and isolated. It is still perfectly legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in 33 states. LGBT teens have a very real fear of being kicked out of their homes by their parents, onto the streets.

We’re conducting research to generate a 20-25 page paper that highlights the LGBT perspective of the National Broadband Plan — things to consider, things that should be included. We will submit this to the FCC, companies who may touch the LGBT community, other federal, state, and national policymakers.”

Wood adds:

“If you look at the National Broadband Plan, LGBT communities are not represented as a minority group. Most of the research done into online use within the LGBT community is for shopping, marketing, asking the question ‘how can we sell to them?’ We want to make sure that members of the LGBT community stay safe online, and their private information is not compromised. For example: how are the businesses that market to us, to everyone, using and storing our confidential data?

We have seen studies where researchers were able to determine a person’s identity based simply on the pattern of their “likes” on Facebook.”

The research isn’t entirely about privacy and security, though. It’s about finding ways to make sure people can build healthy communities. Kapp says:

“If you read the National Broadband Plan, one of the fundamental statements is:

‘Broadband is a platform for overcoming distance and transcending the limitations of one’s physical surroundings.’

My partner and I grew up sitting next to each other in high school biology class. And neither one of us knew the other one was gay until four years after graduating. Now we’ve been together for 20 years. But imagine if we, or anyone else before us, knew that there were more people out there just like them, that they weren’t all alone.

Broadband allows all communities to connect despite distance, geography, and fear of persecution of the outside world. We want to make sure that keeps happening, and that it happens in a way that’s as thoughtful and safe as possible.”

In the words of Fernando Laguarda, TWC’s Vice President, External Affairs and Policy Counselor:

“We launched this program in 2010 to fill a void and make a contribution to scholarship in the policy areas that matter to the communities we serve. I’m really excited about this particular paper, we believe that the topic is really important and represents communities that haven’t had the attention of broadband scholars and policy-makers.”

Since 2010, we have funded 29 different researchers and joint projects.

If you’re interested in learning more about the research project, click here:

The Future of Broadband, Security and Privacy for LGBT Communities

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