March 9, 2010

FCC, Knight Foundation Discuss Universal Broadband Access

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WASHINGTON — A coalition of federal, private and citizen groups gathered March 9 at the Newseum to discuss ways to provide universal broadband access to all Americans.

America's Digital Inclusion Summit, jointly sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, focused on the goal of providing home broadband access to 90 percent of all Americans by 2020, and also ways to help people better utilize the broadband that is already available to them in their communities.

Attendees in five cities participated in the summit live by Webcast. Others sent questions by Twitter.

"You cannot have a healthy American democracy with only 60 percent of Americans having access to key measures of commercial, civic and social communication," said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the United States lags globally in broadband access and particularly in minority, rural, low income, elderly, disabled and tribal communities.

"The cost of digital exclusion is high and growing higher everyday, especially in these economic times," he said.

To reach the 2020 goal, the FCC has offered a strategy in a National Broadband Plan that it will deliver to Congress March 17. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Improving digital literacy for all Americans.
  • Showing how broadband is relevant.
  • Making broadband more affordable.
  • Improving the focus on measurement, best practices and state and local initiatives.

"Every indicator suggests that we cannot wait to build the digital equivalent of President Eisenhower's interstate highway system, or to build the railroad that connected the country in the Lincoln administration," Ibargüen said.

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