Remember when the “digital divide” was developed as a shorthand to describe those Americans who had broadband network access compared to those who did not? Clearly, in a society that revolves around digital technologies and content, being on the wrong side of that divide may mean fewer educational, professional, and personal opportunities.

The good news for many Americans is that the number of persons without access to high-speed broadband at home continues to shrink. Clearly, there is a way to go to achieve near-universal broadband access, but the trend line is pointing in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said regarding digital discrimination. According to the 2022 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, this practice involves determining who gets broadband access “based on income level, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.”

As an example, some neighborhoods in cities get faster broadband speeds than those in poorer neighborhoods, creating a two-tiered effect. In Nashville, for instance, this disparity is dramatic. Lower-income neighborhoods have been offered inferior (i.e., slower) internet plans by AT&T Fiber, the city’s state-of-the-art broadband provider. Research by The Markup indicated that 23.9% of Nashville’s lower-income neighborhoods were in this category, while only 11.1% of upper-income areas were relegated to this second-class broadband access possibility – paying the same amount for less-robust broadband service due to the location of residency.

Nationally, the Federal Communications Commission has been empowered by Congress to handle digital discrimination complaints, which provides some remedy for those who find themselves on this new wrong side of the digital divide. But since the FCC must handle complaints from all 50 states, there is a real likelihood of an individual getting caught in the slow-moving bureaucracy of Washington, D.C.

The new infrastructure law, however, does not prohibit individual states and cities from developing their own approaches. Recently, Los Angeles became the first major U.S. city to ban digital discrimination by expanding L.A.’s authority to oversee discrimination writ large. Its Civil, Human Rights, and Equity Department now will be handling, with full investigative powers, public complaints alleging digital discrimination. Equally important, the agency will be required to collect demographic information about the people making the complaints and report on any trends.

This localized approach may be a more effective route to confront this problem. It promises to lead to faster resolutions of neighborhood problems there, while also making sure that government continues to monitor the situation for potential violations.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who wrote this legislation, pointedly noted that “no one should be charged more [for broadband access] based on their neighborhood. This is a big win and we’ll keep pushing equity on all fronts!”

Nashville now should follow this lead by having its Metropolitan Council enact comparable measures to combat digital discrimination. Other cities across the country also could focus on potential measures, based on collecting and analyzing relevant data to understand how digital discrimination affects their communities.

Stuart N. Brotman is the Alvin and Sally Beaman Professor of Journalism and Media Law, Enterprise, and Leadership at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He serves as a Senior Distinguished Fellow at The Media Institute and is the author of The First Amendment Lives On. A version of this article appeared in knox news.