Arizona PIRG Education Fund Urges Support of a Broadband Plan That Serves the Public Good

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Diane E. Brown

Coming together on OneWebDay groups across the country highlight the need for broadband access in every community

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

As the state and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) begin to consider a long-term strategy to innovate infrastructure, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Media and Democracy Coalition issued A Public Interest Internet Agenda, to serve as a guide to direct decision makers towards consumer protective policy solutions that will connect every citizen to the Internet.

The FCC’s new Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has called for “a process that will be open, transparent and will allow public participation in ways that are unparalleled.”

A Public Interest Internet Agenda prescribes broadband policy solutions that are tied to the common good and our prosperity. According the report, connecting every citizen to the Internet at broadband speed is the key to economic development, robust democracy and open government.

“Broadband access is critical to economic, educational and democratic participation in Arizona and decision makers need to 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 at runaway rates, with poor service and in some instances avoiding service to vulnerable communities will likely continue,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

“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 decision makers formulate a strategy to deliver broadband to every community, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund recommends they 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.