Guest blog post by Gilbert Resendez, Broadband Program Specialist, BroadbandUSA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
Pride Month is a time for members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to celebrate our history and continue the fight for equal rights. While we come from different places and different backgrounds, we all share the innate desire for acceptance.The need to build and sustain a community online is more important than ever before.
I was born and raised in Arcata, a rural community in Northern California. Growing up, I felt fortunate to have access to Internet and other technology – something that can’t be said for many rural communities in the U.S.
One of my earliest memories of using the Internet to build and maintain community was in elementary school. In the fifth grade, one of my friends, Caitlin, moved to the Czech Republic with her family for the year while her mother was on sabbatical from the local university. That year, my classmates and I were able to keep in touch with Caitlin through email and AOL Instant Messenger – an impressive accomplishment for 2002. While thousands of miles apart, the Internet helped our classroom feel connected. This helped form an early interest in the Internet’s ability to form and shape community, which for LGBTQ+ folks is all too often the one place they have to seek it out.
I attended the University of Portland where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Communication & Media Studies in 2014. Later, I earned my master’s degree in Public Policy & Management from Carnegie Mellon University. While at CMU, I became interested in the intersection between technology, policy, and people. I also helped organize the policy schools mentorship program to support applicants who have traditionally been underrepresented in graduate public policy education.
I finished school in May 2019 and quickly started my job as a Broadband Program Specialist at the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It wasn’t until I met my now coworkers that I came to learn about the broadband work done by NTIA and the BroadbandUSA program. I quickly became passionate about the role that government and public policy can play in connecting under and unserved Americans to broadband technology. In my job, I help convene state, local, and community leaders to expand broadband and promote digital inclusivity.
I am inspired by the work I get to do at NTIA every day. I help Americans connect to broadband Internet, not only allowing more people to participate in the digital economy but connecting people to the tools they need to maintain a sense of community during these difficult times. This Pride Month, we’ll be looking to the Internet to facilitate Pride celebrations and engage in dialogue about what still needs to happen for LGBTQ+ people to reach full equality. Internet access is more important than ever to attain that goal.