Public Interest Groups Urge FCC to End “Digital Exclusion” with National Broadband Plan


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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 29, 2010 — Citing a major new report entitled Digital Exclusion in America, public interest groups are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to live up to the bold vision laid out by Congress for the National Broadband Plan by taking the following steps:

* Declare the goal of raising the level of broadband adoption within a decade to 90 percent (which is about the level of telephone penetration today).

* Define broadband as eligible for universal service fund support and immediately commence the necessary proceedings to start using those funds to promote broadband adoption.

* Identify ways other department (e.g. Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Education) can use their existing programs to augment the stimulus funds begin used to address the skill and motivational barriers to broadband adoption.

The goals were laid out by the groups — Center for Media Justice, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, New America Foundation, and Public Knowledge — in a recent filing at the FCC.

“With one-third of U.S. households lacking broadband service at home, this is a challenging but achievable goal,” said Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America and author of the report. “Like John F. Kennedy’s challenge to America to put a man on the moon within a decade, the U.S. needs to rise to meet its down to earth economic problem. Ending digital exclusion, which was the result of the Bush administration’s trickle down broadband policy, would be a major social and economic accomplishment.”

“Broadband is a critical component to several of the great challenges our nation faces,” said Joel Kelsey, Policy Analyst at Consumers Union. “Access to healthcare, job growth, small business investment, education and climate change all rely on developing a 21st century broadband infrastructure. This filing reminds the FCC what is at stake, and urges the agency to make bold decisions.”

“The immense value of broadband adoption to individuals and the nation makes it imperative that the FCC move quickly to jump start the effort to dramatically expand broadband adoption. For eight years the Bush administration denied the existence of the problem and ignored the opportunity costs of this failure to roll out ubiquitous broadband,” stated Sascha Meinrath, Director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative. “The FCC has asked the right questions and received overwhelming evidence that digital exclusion is a supply-side problem. Now the FCC must avoid the problem of paralysis by analysis. In addition to the stimulus funds, which are being directed at promoting access, the FCC should tap the universal service fund to address another key barrier to broadband adoption, affordability.”

“Congress established a bold aspiration of the National Broadband Plan,” said Harold Feld, Legal Director, Public Knowledge, declaring that the plan “shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability…also include a detailed strategy for achieving affordability of such service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure.”

“Congress gave the FCC a critically important task. Now is the time for both courage and vision,” said Malkia A. Cyril, Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice. “With the third generation of digital technology spreading through society, the digital divide means digital exclusion, lowering life chances for tens of millions of households. If the FCC and other agencies do not seize the opportunity of the national broadband plan to immediately launch a broad program of broadband adoption, the cumulative effect of digital exclusion will deepen long-standing structural problems and the digital divide for decades to come.”


Contact: David Butler, Consumers Union, 202-719-5916,