The Online Census and COVID-19 Make Clear the Need for Universal Broadband Access

As Covid-19 changes everyday life for Filipino Americans, one area that needs our attention is the pandemic’s impact on the 2020 Census. This year’s census allows the option to complete the questionnaire online – a decision aimed at raising the national response rate from 74% in 2010. While we applaud this decision to make the census more accessible, we also recognize that this new accessibility is not available to all Americans. Reaching full census participation is an essential step in our fight for political representation, so it’s time to address the structural barriers that make broadband unavailable to so many in our community.

The simple act of participating in the census does crucial work for all Filipino Americans. The census results inform the decisions of lawmakers and business leaders, and these decisions have far-reaching consequences. Perhaps the most serious of these consequences is the allocation of congressional seats. Based on the results of the 2010 census, 7 of the 10 states with the largest Filipino American populations saw changes in their number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s the job of these representatives to make our voices heard, and for them to do that, we have to let them know that we’re here. 

In addition, census results inform important government decisions about federal funding. Your local public school, hospital, fire station, and retirement home likely benefit from federal government funds. These funds are dispensed based on an area’s population based on the census results. Census participation is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your local community receives the funding it needs. 

Government officials aren’t the only ones who use information from the census to drive their choices, as the U.S. Census Bureau states on their website: “Business owners rely on census results to make decisions, such as where to open new stores, restaurants, factories, or offices, where to expand operations, where to recruit employees, and which products and services to offer.” These effects on the employment and overall quality of life of Filipino Americans make this cause even more important.  

Right now, the 2020 census response rate is 63%. For so many Americans to be left out of these numbers signals real problems for our democracy. While the available data does not sufficiently map internet connectivity for Filipino Americans, we know that communities of color chronically lack broadband access. With the availability of the census online, this digital divide could exacerbate the struggles faced by communities of color for employment prospects and political representation. To secure the political and economic future of our community, we have to address this inequity.

As we become increasingly dependent on the internet for routine activities, guaranteeing high-speed, reliable internet access is critical for Filipino Americans to seize economic and opportunities that can lead to greater political participation and social mobility. That’s why we’re calling on the FCC and Congress to make key investments in our digital infrastructure that can ultimately lead to universal broadband access. 

 Now is the time for bold, bipartisan action on this issue so that communities like ours are not shut out from the democratic process, or left behind in the digital age.