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A Public Interest Internet Agenda
Broadband Internet is the means by which increasing numbers of Americans earn a living, receive an education, consume goods and services and participate in their democracy. Yet despite it’s importance, the United States ranks 15th among developed nations when it comes to broadband deployment.
A Public Interest Internet Agenda prescribes broadband policy solutions that are tied to the common good and our nation’s prosperity. Connecting our entire nation to the Internet at broadband speed is the key to economic development, improved healthcare and education, energy efficiency, robust democracy and open government.
By adopting this bold strategy to network every community, policy-makers will meet our most pressing needs and allow communities to reach for the American Dream in the Digital Age. As the government officials begin to implement various plans to extend broadband, this unique and valuable contribution from public interest advocates should be considered.
We recommend that policy makers embrace the following core principles:
1. Every American should have access to Broadband communications. Like the government’s past efforts to extend telephone coverage there must be universal and open, non-discriminatory access to high-speed and high-quality broadband.
2. Good policy must be well informed. Policymakers must have access to reliable data on where broadband presently exists, at what speeds, of what quality, by what provider, how it is used by consumers, why certain consumers do not use it, and how other consumers integrate it into their lives. These data must be as granular as possible, and should be made available in raw form on the Internet for public analysis.
3. Policy should promote competition, innovation, localism, and opportunity. Locally owned and operated networks support these familiar core goals of communications policy, and therefore should receive priority in terms of federal and state support. Structural separation of ownership of broadband infrastructure from the delivery of service over that infrastructure will further promote these goals.
4. Government should use public resources wisely. Policymakers should seek to leverage the use of resources and assets such as publicly-owned spectrum, fiber and rights-of-way to achieve the goal of universal broadband access to the Internet
5. Policy must stress digital inclusion and the service of traditionally disenfranchised communities. Stimulating broadband supply is necessary but not sufficient to achieve the goal of universal broadband. Policymakers must also promote digital inclusion to stimulate broadband demand and ensure that all residents have access to the digital skills and tools necessary to take advantage of the Internet’s enormous potential benefits in creativity, economic development and civic engagement. This benefits not just those on the wrong side of the Digital Divide, but all broadband users and our society.
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