Significance of Broadband is Examined at the 2011 MMTC Broadband and Social Justice Summit

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Washington, DC – A diverse group of technology experts, policymakers, educators, providers, community activists, and interested consumers came together Thursday to attend the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council’s annual Broadband and Social Justice Summit in Washington, D.C. The purpose for the summit was to stimulate an open and honest discussion about the critical social justice issues surrounding broadband access, adoption, and affordability.

This year, the discussion themes included:
• Implementing the National Broadband Plan
• The Obama Administration’s Broadband Policy Priorities
• Universal Broadband Adoption: A Civil Rights Imperative
• The Road Map to Universal Access, Adoption and Affordability

In the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Clifford Stearns (R-FL) chairs the Oversight Subcommittee. In discussing technology issues, Stearns gave the following opinions:

Broadband’s proliferation– Broadband is exploding while traditional media is facing significant reductions in reader/viewership. From 2005 – 2010, newspaper readership decreased by 26 percent while Internet usage increased by 150 percent.

Net Neutrality- Regulating the Internet will create uncertainty in the market. Congress can resolve the issue and still let the Internet flourish.

Stimulus program– The program had a chance to be very successful but did not reach its potential because money was given out for broadband when we didn’t really know which areas were unserved.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), considered a leading legislative champion of minority telecommunications entrepreneurship, believes that minority businesses are falling behind their white counterparts and there needs to be more effective promotion of broadband adoption in the black community. “Broadband is good for our students, good for business, and good for the economy,” said Rush. “We need to employ courageous and audacious approaches.”

Anna Gomez is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Secretary Gomez expressed the position that broadband deployment is important, but broadband adoption is also important.

“There is no one-size fits all solution to closing the digital divide,” said Gomez. She believes that a combination of approaches makes sense including targeted outreach to minority and rural populations emphasizing the benefits of broadband.

Gomez announced the NTIA’s commissioning of a multi-use study to access the impact of grant awards on broadband availability and adoption in the communities that they serve. “The results of this rigorous evaluation will help inform government on the return of our investment as well as identify factors that can inform future private and/or public sector investments.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski joined the discussion and gave some insight on the aftermath of the release of the National Broadband Plan.

“Released March 16, 2010, it put out a bold vision for using broadband for achieving first class digital citizenship. Unfortunately, for the last nine months after the plan was put out there, all of the air was sucked out of the policy room by Net Neutrality,” Genachowski said. “Nearly every conversation at the Commission shifted away from implementing the National Broadband Plan and toward attempting to shape the Net Neutrality rules.”
He went on to state that, “If 2010 was the year of broadband regulation, 2011 will be the year of broadband adoption.”

Founded in 1986, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council promotes equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media and telecommunications industries.

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