News Release

Public Interest Groups Urge Lawmakers to Support Broadband Plan that Serves the Public Good

For Immediate Release

For this year’s OneWebDay PennPIRG and the Media and Democracy Coalition will release A Public Interest Internet Agenda and join Philadelphia residents for a policy panel discussion on the future of local broadband access.  The event is being held at 7pm in the University of the Arts as part of Philadelphia’s inaugural OneWebDay celebration.

During his Sept 21st, 2009 address in Troy, New York President Barack Obama again stressed the importance of fair and open broadband access. "One key to strengthening education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in communities like Troy is to harness the full power of the Internet. That means faster and more widely available broadband as well as rules to ensure that we preserve the fairness and openness that led to the flourishing of the Internet in the first place. The President went on to state, “…the role of government is to provide investment that spurs innovation and common-sense ground rules to ensure that there is a level playing field for all comers who seek to contribute their innovations."

Our report, A Public Interest Internet Agenda offers lawmakers broadband policy solutions that are tied to the common good and our prosperity. Connecting every citizen to the Internet at broadband speed is the key to economic development, improved healthcare and education, energy efficiency, robust democracy and open government

“Broadband access is crucial to economic, educational and democratic participation in Pennsylvania and it’s critical that government make consumer friendly choices that empower communities while bringing access to every corner of the state.  Without consumer protective policies to guide them, the handful of corporations that sell broadband have done so at runaway rates, with poor service and have even avoided serving broadband to many of our most vulnerable communities.  This report offers solutions to connecting communities while protecting consumers.”  Said Megan DeSmedt, State Director PennPIRG.

A Public Interest Internet Agenda prescribes broadband policy solutions that are tied to the common good and our prosperity. Connecting every citizen to the Internet at broadband speed is the key to economic development, improved healthcare and education, energy efficiency, robust democracy and open government

"The process of developing the broadband stimulus grant generated lots of great ideas and energy in Philadelphia over the past few months," OneWeb Day Philly organizer Gwen Shaffer said. “We hope the policy panel will help build on that momentum and ensure continued public input."

“Access to the Internet can help address many of the complex problems that the U.S. faces today. By adopting this bold strategy to network our nation, policy-makers can give communities and individuals tools to achieve their true potential,” said Beth McConnell, Executive Director of the Media and Democracy Coalition.

As lawmakers formulate a strategy to deliver broadband to every community, this unique and valuable contribution from public interest advocates should be considered. We recommend that lawmakers 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.

A Public Interest Internet Agenda has been endorsed by over 40 local and national public interest organizations that work on media and telecommunications issues.

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PennPIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.