The following article by Malik Shareef originally appeared on Politic365.com.
When the FCC unveiled their National Broadband Plan in 2010, the primary goal was to improve broadband Internet access throughout the United States. The plan sought to provide 100 million American households with access to 100 Mbit/s connections by the year 2020. President Barack Obama noted that high-speed internet should no longer be a luxury.
Recently, the FCC took additional steps to ensure it reaches those goals by unveiling a new Public-Private Initiative to “drive collaboration among government and private sector entities, including non-profit organizations, on broadband-related national priorities.” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski hopes that the initiative will advance several broadband goals in the National Broadband Plan, such as “broadband adoption, digital literacy, technology and education, cybersecurity, public safety, job creation, and broadband and healthcare.”
Chairman Genachowski, who appointed Josh Gottheimer to head the initiative, commented, “For nearly two years, Josh Gottheimer has helped focus private and public sector actors on delivering innovative solutions to connect every American with high-speed Internet, drive job creation, and empower consumers. This entrepreneurial approach has delivered major advances in areas such as technology and education, broadband adoption, cybersecurity, and public safety.”
The Commission has already had several public-private initiatives that have been successful in helping to bridge the gap of broadband access. A few of these programs include,
“Connect to Compete, a broadband adoption program with national digital literacy and low-cost broadband offerings;
The Digital Textbooks Initiative, between the Department of Education, the education technology industry, and nonprofit organizations;
The FCC’s cybersecurity small business initiative, between government experts and private IT and security companies;
Jobs4America, an initiative that has committed to bringing more than 100,000 new and repatriated call center jobs to the U.S. by 2013;
and a joint effort with mobile carriers on a new nationwide public safety emergency alerting system.”
The initiative comes at a critical time as the urban poor fear being left behind in the digital age where having access to Internet is most critical. There are an estimated 100 million Americans who don’t have access to Internet at home. This inability to connect to the worldwide web hinders the urban poor from furthering education, as more and more courses move online, and even in applying for jobs to help them ascend to a higher class. 93% of households with incomes above $75,000 have broadband Internet while only 40% of households with incomes below $20,000 have similar access. It is apparent the “digital divide” must be closed if all Americans are going to have an opportunity to compete in an ever-changing marketplace where more and more transactions are conducted online.
Many of those surveyed cite cost as the main factor for why they don’t have Internet access in the home. As broadband costs increase yearly, steps must be taken to provide high-speed Internet access to these underserved communities.
Surprisingly, others cited the Internet as irrelevant or have problems understanding computers. Hopefully, Chairman Genachowski’s new public-private initiative will not only deal with access, but education with regards to computer, Internet literacy.