A coalition of public interest and consumer groups is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to increase access to broadband internet in underserved communities.
The coalition – which includes the Consumer Federation of America, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, and Free Press – has developed a set of benchmarks that it says should be included in the FCC’s upcoming National Broadband Plan, which is due to Congress on March 17.
The recommendations for the FCC include:
- Increasing U.S. broadband adoption of networks at “world class speeds” to 90 percent by 2020;
- Substantially improving the level of competition between providers of broadband internet access by the end of 2012;
- Establishing real consumer protections for broadband customers within 12-18 months;
- Implementing new broadband data collection standards and rules for utilizing that data in market analyses by the end of 2010; and
- Establishing rules protecting open markets for speech and commerce on broadband networks quickly.
The coalition’s recommendations come on the heels of a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) study, which confirms that although overall use of high-speed-internet has increased, there is still a dramatic digital divide in America, where disproportionate numbers of low-income, rural, and minority communities still do not have access to high-speed internet.
The study found that Asian non-Hispanic (67.3 percent) and White non-Hispanic users (65.7 percent) are more likely to have broadband in their homes than Black non-Hispanic (45.9 percent), Hispanic (39.7 percent), and Native American/Alaska Native users (42.6 percent).
Civil rights groups, including The Leadership Conference Education Fund, have long argued that the federal government must address the digital divide because of the serious consequences it could have for disadvantaged minority groups as computer and technological skills become increasingly important in all spheres of American life.