Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
First African American woman appointed to FCC in US history
The power to realize change, is in each and every one of us, but first you have to care, then you have to show that you care and acknowledge that something needs fixing, then you have to rise up, go out and make a difference. There is no one formula, no single cause, no particular style, no ideal spokesperson and no perfect time, other than now.
|Author||Her father, Assistant Democratic Leader, US Representative Jim Clyburn|
|Movie||Tim Reed’s “Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored”|
What do you consider the current most relevant issue at the FCC?
The digital opportunity divide. Unequal investment by corporations for utilities and telecommunication services in urban and rural, low-income communities. This divide disproportionately affects minorities and low net-worth individuals. The FCC has a unique role to see access to telecommunication services given to all Americans.
Could you explain your stance on net neutrality and how limiting the internet will affect our daily lives?
For individuals who can only afford one connectivity platform, they often choose mobile. And if mobile is your only platform, it often becomes your broadband device. Net neutrality rules clearly say that as long as your device does not harm the market, you should be able to use it to connect to the internet without anyone slowing down or hampering your ability. Additionally, companies have access to government aid only if the service they provide is a telecommunications service. De-regulating the internet would de-classify these companies as telecommunications brands, which would hamper our ability to ensure that connectivity happens. How can we adequately do our job if we don’t have all the tools in our box to make sure that connectivity happens?
What action can be taken by consumers?
You must remain vigilant, you must become active, if you believe in an open and enabling platform you’ve got to know that silence is not the pathway to ensure that it will remain so.
Could you elaborate on your experience at the FCC, especially recently as the only woman and Democrat?
It can be a lonely, very vulnerable type of experience, but I think about other people in other disciplines that have come before me, and whatever I have experienced as being a lone voice, that pales in comparison to those who have fought for more diversity and inclusion and opportunity. While it might be true that things are being said that are not flattering, and while it might be true that there may be some opportunities that will not be offered to me, it is also true that I did not come and take an oath to be on this commission for the past 8 years for my enrichment. It was for the enrichment of 300 million people and particularly for the enrichment of those people who consistently have been on the wrong side of the opportunities divide.
What piece of advice can you give to women of color who are emerging leaders?
First and foremost, follow your passion. You’ve got to be able to get up in the morning and go to sleep at night and look at yourself in the mirror and be ok with that. Also, you’ve got to know where it’s a test of your resolve as opposed to a bad environment. If it’s just tough, you need to tough it out because you need to get tougher because it’s not going to come easy. The most longstanding lessons I have learned are the ones that I went home crying about.