High-speed Internet access for all

A coalition of academics, information technology industry leaders and public-policy advocates will launch a campaign today to make 'access to a fast, open and affordable Internet a basic right for all Americans.'

Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein was among the scheduled speakers in New York announcing creation of InternetforEveryone.org. Other participants in the news conference included Google chief technology evangelist and Internet patriarch Vinton Cerf in addition to law professors and entrepreneurs.

The coalition warned that the United States is falling behind in broadband Internet access at a time when high-speed online access is becoming a public necessity in fully developing economic, social and political potential. The group pointed to statistics showing that since 2001 the United States has slipped from fourth in the world in broadband penetration to 15th today. In addition, U.S. consumers have less choice when it comes to high-speed online access and are paying more for it.

The advocates warned that this digital divide is not only separating many lower economic classes, ethnic minorities and rural residents from the mainstream in this country but also separating this country from parts of the world that have leapfrogged us in broadband penetration.

'InternetforEveryone.org will unite Internet users, content creators and innovators to make universal, affordable high-speed Internet access a national priority,' the organization said in announcing its formation Tuesday at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York.

The Personal Democracy Forum is a 5-year-old conference exploring the intersection of the Internet with politics and democracy in the United States. It plans to organize public support and economic clout to produce the political momentum needed to expand broadband access.

InternetforEveryone.org will promote four basic principles:
  • Every home and business in the United States must have access to a high-speed, world-class communications infrastructure.
  • Every consumer must have the benefit of competition in online content and among high-speed Internet providers to achieve lower prices and higher speeds.
  • Every Internet user should have freedom of speech and commerce online in an open market without gatekeepers or discrimination.
  • The Internet should continue to create good jobs, foster entrepreneurship, spread new ideas and serve as a leading engine of economic growth.

The organization intends to solicit federal, state and local support for the initiative.

Its membership roster includes 40 organizations and companies from the American Civil Liberties Union to Yale Information Society Project, industry leaders eBay.com and Google, and technology innovators such as Internet2. Individual members include Profs. Barbara van Schewick and Larry Lessig at Stanford Law School, Prof. Jack Balkin at Yale Law School, Prof. Yochai Benker at Harvard Law School, and Prof. Jonathan Zittrain at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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