Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Broadband: FCC: Civil Right

Monday, December 14, 2009 Broadband Touted As 'Civil Right'

Broadband advocates, civil rights activists, and FCC officials described high-speed Internet service as a "civil right" during an FCC public hearing Monday night in Memphis focused on the digital divide. "Universal access to broadband needs to be seen as a civil right...[even though] not many people have talked about it that way," Commissioner Michael Copps said. The event was one in a series as the FCC works to craft a national broadband plan by February.

Panelists described a digital gap in which rural, minority, and low-income Americans subscribe to broadband at lower rates than the general population. Non-users face educational challenges, difficulty applying for jobs, and limited access to government services in a world where many of these functions have moved online, panelists said.

"Broadband is becoming a basic necessity," Benjamin Hooks, the first black FCC commissioner and a former NAACP executive director, said. Panelists noted that affordability and a lack of education about broadband's benefits are key barriers to universal adoption. Increased access at community centers could serve as a "first step" in informing these groups about the need to adopt broadband, Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association Vice President Dianne Polly said. (...)

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