It’s said that politics creates strange bedfellows. I was reminded how true this can be when I traveled to D.C. in recent weeks to figure out why several advocacy groups and legislators with histories of advocating for minority interests are lining up with big telecom companies in opposition to the FCC’s efforts to pass “Net Neutrality” rules.
Net Neutrality is the principle that prevents Internet Service Providers from controlling what kind of content or applications you can access online. It sounds wonky, but for Black and other communities, an open Internet offers a transformative opportunity to truly control our own voice and image, while reaching the largest number of people possible. This dynamic is one major reason why Barack Obama was elected president and why organizations like ColorOfChange.org exist.
So I was troubled to learn that several Congressional Black Caucus members were among 72 Democrats to write the FCC last fall questioning the need for Net Neutrality rules. I was further troubled that a number of our nation’s leading civil rights groups had also taken positions questioning or against Net Neutrality, using arguments that were in step with those of the big phone and cable companies like AT&T and Comcast, which are determined to water down any new FCC rules.
First, let’s be clear: the problem of the broadband digital divide is real. Already, getting a job, accessing services, managing one’s medical care—just to mention a few examples—are all facilitated online. Those who aren’t connected face a huge disadvantage in so many aspects of our society. Broadband access is a big problem -- but that doesn't mean it has anything to do with Net Neutrality.
Yet some in the civil rights community will tell you differently. They claim that if broadband providers can earn greater profits by charging content providers for access to the Internet “fast lane,” then they will lower prices to underserved areas. In other words, if Comcast — which already earns 80 percent profit margins on its broadband services — can increase its profits under a system without Net Neutrality, then they’ll all of a sudden invest in our communities. You don’t have to be a historian or economist to know that this type of trickle-down economics never works and has always failed communities of color.
Whether the phone and cable companies can make more money by acting as toll-takers on the Internet has nothing to do with whether they will invest in increased deployment of broadband. If these companies think investing in low-income communities makes good business sense, they will make the investment. Benevolence doesn’t factor into the equation.
On my trips to Washington, I met with some of the groups and congressional offices questioning or opposing Net Neutrality. I asked them what evidence they had to back up claims that undermining Net Neutrality would lead to an expansion of broadband to under-served communities, or that preserving Net Neutrality would thwart expansion. Not one could answer my question. Some CBC members hadn’t yet been presented with a counter to the industry’s arguments; others told stories about pressure from telecom companies or from other members of congress. As one CBC staffer told me, many CBC members have willingly supported the business agenda of telecom companies because the industry can be counted on to make campaign contributions, and they face no political backlash.
I also heard from people who don’t consider themselves against Net Neutrality, but who say their issue is prioritizing broadband expansion over maintaining Net Neutrality—as if the two have some intrinsic competitive relationship. When I’ve asked about the relationship, again, no one could provide anything concrete.
To those taking positions against Net Neutrality, I ask what sense it makes to undermine the very power of the Internet, especially for our communities, in order to provide access to everyone, presuming for a second the two were even connected. It’s like what we have with cable — our communities are saturated with programming that they cannot control, with no benefit of empowerment for anyone. Again, no one with whom I talked had an answer to this point.
Prominent lawmakers, including CBC members Reps. John Conyers, Maxine Waters, and Donna Edwards are vocal supporters, as are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama — who has pledged to “take a back seat to no one” on the issue. And last week, Mignon Clyburn, a commissioner at the FCC, called out advocacy groups entrusted by many to represent our communities, for making half-baked arguments that completely miss the boat on the importance of Net Neutrality to our communities.
As Clyburn pointed out, far from being just a concern of the digital elite, Net Neutrality is essential to what makes the Internet a place where people of color and marginalized communities can speak for ourselves without first asking for permission from gatekeepers, and where small blogs, businesses, and organizations operate on a level playing field with the largest corporations. Net Neutrality regulations are needed to protect the status quo, because the telecom industry sees an opportunity for profit in fundamentally altering this basic aspect of the Internet.
In the coming weeks I plan to head back to DC to continue to fight for Net Neutrality. I’m hoping that on my next trip some of the anti-Net Neutrality civil rights groups or CBC members will heed my call and explain their position. I would like to believe that there is more to the “civil rights” opposition to Net Neutrality than money, politics, relationships, or just plain lack of understanding. For now, I’m doing my best to keep an open mind. But I don’t think it will stay that way for much longer.
When my White liberal colleagues who have drunk the Web-is-color-blind Kool-Aid, and rant quixotic about the transcendent power of technology as the great equalizer, what praytell do they think about this . . . ?
This seems like a perfect 21st century example of the continuing harm of racial invisibility. Next time you think about spouting "color-blindness" as a good thing, watch this video again.
Just like the well-meaning people who think this is a laudable goal or quality in people, the HP techs who're responsible for this glitch probably didn't mean to develop the software to discriminate against dark-skinned people. Nevertheless, the result is the same isn't?
Invisibility sucks, people.
In fact, I'm pretty sure there was a pretty important piece of literature written on this very topic back in 1947. Now, what was that book called?
When Fox News’ Glenn Beck called President Barack Obama a racist this past July, the online advocacy group ColorOfChange.org launched a campaign to convince advertisers to boycott the show. To date, some 280,000 people have joined the effort, and more than 60 companies have pulled their ads.
CNN parted ways with Lou Dobbs last month after civil rights groups and Presente.org mobilized thousands of Latinos online to call on CNN to dump the talk show host for spewing hate against immigrants for years.
None of this — not these advocacy efforts, not countless small business success stories, not even the election of President Barack Obama — would have happened without a free and open Internet. For communities of color, the Internet provides us with a unique opportunity to speak for ourselves without first seeking the approval of gatekeepers or having to secure major funds to do so. But the big telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast want to create an effectively segregated online community where they will act as our gatekeepers.
[T]he big telecommunications companies
like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast
want to create an effectively segregated online community
will act as our gatekeepers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now considering new rules that could protect the fundamental principle of “Network Neutrality” once and for all. Net Neutrality prohibits Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, discriminating against or deterring Internet users from accessing online content and applications of their choice — such as e-newsletters, blogs, social networking sites, online videos, podcasts and smart-phone apps. It is not that network owners are secretly plotting to stifle free speech – at least not usually. But they have an undeniable, rational interest in creating a pay-for-play model for the treatment of communication on the Internet. Commercial websites that pay will get speed and quality and the non-commercial uses of the Net will be collateral damage – relegated to the slow lane. It’s not necessarily that they want to block our speech for political reasons; it’s that our speech is not important to them because it’s not going to make them money.
Many of the most valuable things we do online
are non-commercial; they
exist because the Internet is
the first mass media system with no
to dole out privilege to the highest bidder.
The Internet provides our communities with a medium to access services, find jobs, connect to friends, make inexpensive international phone calls to family members, and to advocate for social change. Many of the most valuable things we do online are non-commercial; they exist because the Internet is the first mass media system with no gatekeepers to dole out privilege to the highest bidder. That freedom and openness is what makes the Internet different from broadcasting and cable. It makes it valuable to our communities. We can’t allow Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other broadband providers to deliver substandard Internet service to our communities.
Telecom Companies Want to Create Second-Class “Netizens”
But the big phone and cable companies want to get rid of Net Neutrality and control how the public accesses the Internet. These companies want to charge websites extra tolls to secure the fastest speeds online, while favoring their own content and services over their competition’s. Those unable to pay will be banished to the slow lane online, becoming second-class “netizens” without the same freedoms given to those with more money and influence.
This threat to Internet freedom isn’t hypothetical. Verizon got caught blocking text messages sent by the pro-choice group NARAL to its own members – though they backed down immediately under public pressure. Comcast has also illegally interfered with file-sharing on its network, a practice that earned them a rebuke from the FCC.
Even though President Obama pledged he would “take a back seat to no one” on Net Neutrality, the big phone and cable companies are pulling out all the stops to derail it, including deploying Karl Rove¬–style scare tactics within our communities and using their massive resources to block Obama’s agenda. In the first nine months of 2009, they employed nearly 500 lobbyists and spent some $74 million to influence Congress and the FCC. Their misinformation has even convinced Glenn Beck that Net Neutrality is an attempt by President Obama to take over the Internet.
Who will protect the online rights of marginalized communities against the raw profit motive of big business? We urge leaders in our community not to yield to the underhanded scare tactics that corporations like AT&T have used on our communities.
We Must Reject a Separate but Unequal Online World
One of those scare tactics is the claim, pushed by phone and cable companies, that Network Neutrality poses a threat to digital inclusion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does Net Neutrality expand media diversity and access by ensuring fairness and nondiscrimination by big corporations, it will prevent the kind of media consolidation that has happened in the broadcast industry by helping our communities develop a diversity of civic and commercial online enterprises on a scale that represents our growing online numbers.
It’s not necessarily that they want to block our speech for political
it’s that our speech is not important to them
because it’s not
going to make them money.
A primary reason for the digital divide is that the cost of fully engaging in the online world is just too expensive for many in our community. Broadband in the United States is among the slowest but most expensive of any industrialized nation. After years of consolidation, the largest telecom companies have gotten away with price-gouging our communities because of a lack of competition in the broadband market. More choices for broadband service – not permitting more discrimination – are the key to bringing down costs. Scrapping Net Neutrality in order to consolidate control over the Internet by cable and phone companies is not the answer. More market control won’t give them more incentive to sell low-cost high-quality services to low-income communities. Our communities will still be subject to the same business case that have marginalized us in the first place –households that don’t have a lot of money to spend. Shareholders aren’t charities, and we are foolish to expect otherwise.
But more importantly, we should not be sacrificing an open Internet to bribe phone and cable companies not to practice forms of red-lining. The answer to the digital divide cannot be to deliver a second-class, closed Internet to our communities.
The historic fight against discrimination by groups like the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens has led to great societal change, laying the groundwork for the election of a president of color. We urge our colleagues in the civil rights community to fight with us to ensure that telecom and cable companies are not allowed to discriminate against our communities or interfere with our capacity to speak for ourselves without first asking AT&T, Verizon or Comcast for permission.
to bribe phone and cable companies not to practice forms of red-lining.
We are living through a critical moment in our nation’s history. The FCC is going to decide whether the Internet will remain an open platform that allows for the greatest number of voices to participate in our democratic society, or whether it will be a closed network controlled by the big telecom companies.
We are concerned about the dire consequences of living without Internet freedom. It would create a separate but unequal online world where our communities are unable to use the Internet to compete or to advocate for justice when we have been wronged.
We need civil rights, media justice, community-oriented and grassroots organizations to stand together to make sure effective Net Neutrality regulation will protect our communities from the predatory practices of the phone and cable industries.
[L]iving without Internet freedom . . . would create a separate but unequal
where our communities are unable to use the Internet
compete or to advocate for justice
when we have been wronged.
As with past civil rights struggles that successfully expanded access, thwarted discrimination, destroyed legalized segregation, and created broad opportunity, so too will the cause for Internet freedom.
Malkia Cyril is the executive director of the Center for Media Justice. Chris Rabb is the founder of the online community Afro-Netizen and is a visiting researcher at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Joseph Torres is the government relations manager of Free Press and former deputy director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
For Immediate Release September 2, 2009 Contact: Brandon Hatler – DumpGlennBeck at gmail dot com
11 New Companies Pledge Not to Run Additional Ads on Glenn Beck Program
Capital One, Mercedes-Benz, Discover Among Latest To Distance Themselves from FNC Host
OAKLAND, Calif.—Eleven new companies whose ads were recently seen during Beck’s program—Binder & Binder, Capital One, The Dannon Company, Discover, HSBC, ICAN Benefit Group Insurance, Infiniti, Jelmar (manufacturer of CLR All-Purpose Cleaner), Jordan McKenna Debt Counseling Network, Mercedes-Benz and Simplex Healthcare (creator of the Diabetes Care Club) —have pledged to ColorOfChange.org to take steps to ensure that their ads don’t run on Beck’s show. Fifty-seven companies have now committed not to support Beck’s show since ColorOfChange.org launched its campaign four weeks ago after the Fox News Channel host called President Obama a “racist” who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people” during an appearance on Fox & Friends.
“We applaud those companies that have recently pulled their support from Beck,” said James Rucker, executive director of ColorOfChange.org. “There are at least 57 companies who will not tolerate Beck’s race-baiting comments and we will continue to reach out to those who are still supporting him.”
Comments from advertisers recently distancing themselves from Beck:
In a phone conversation with ColorOfChange.org on Wednesday, Kathy Adkins, a Capital One spokesperson, confirmed that Capital One had instructed Fox News not to run the company’s ads during Beck’s program. “We don't plan on running any more ads on the Glenn Beck Show,” said Adkins. “We have checked with our advertising area and have confirmed that a few ads ran on the Glen [sic] Beck Show as part of a FOX TV buy at the beginning of August,” said Tommy Shi, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Mercedes-Benz USA, in an email to ColorOfChange.org, “but no ads have run since on that show, nor are there plans to do so moving forward.”
“Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) considers its commitment to Diversity and Inclusion [sic] an integral part of its corporate culture and business strategy,” Shi added. “We believe that MBUSA's success is dependent on embracing the various cultures, nationalities and convictions of our associates and market that translate into meeting consumer needs and expectations for relevant products and services.”
“Discover is committed to supporting a wide variety of programming that features a diversity of talent, topics and opinions,” said Mai Lee Ua, Project Manager for Public Relations at Discover, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. “Our current TV buys do not include any future airings on the Glenn Beck Show." Ua later added, “Our ads will not run during the show”.
“Infiniti has not placed any advertisements on this program for several weeks, and have no current plans to advertise on it in the future,” said Kyle W. Bazemore, Senior Manager of Product Communications at Infiniti, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. Bazemore later confirmed, “We have indeed instructed Fox not to place our ads on this program at this time.”
“We ceased advertising on the program and have no future plans for advertising on it,” said Cindy Savio, Vice-President of Public Affairs for HSBC-North America, in an email to ColorOfChange.org.
“We have requested that they [Fox News] re-schedule the spots,” said Dick Summer, Communications Director for Binder and Binder, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. “Dannon doesn't plan to run any more ads on the program and we have informed the network of this,” said Michael J. Neuwirth, Senior Director of Public Relations for The Dannon Company & Danone Waters of America, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. “We have contacted FOX News and demanded that our commercial not be run during the Glenn Beck show,” said Keith J. Waring, a spokesperson for the Jordan McKenna Debt Counseling Network, in an email to ColorOfChange.org.
“Please be advised that as of 8/28 we have fully removed ourselves from advertising within the Glenn Beck Show,” said Robyn Warren, a spokesperson for Koeppel Direct, the agency of record for Simplex Healthcare, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. “Due to remnant buying that was in place, the lead time on pulling our advertising took longer but has been resolved.”
In a phone conversation with ColorOfChange.org on Monday, Dee Halloran, a spokesperson for ICAN Benefit Group, confirmed their request that Fox News not allow the company's ads to air during Glenn Beck's show.
“Jelmar typically cannot target specific shows or programming, and did not have a media buy specifically in place for Glenn Beck,” said Adrienne Gibbons, Marketing Director for Jelmar, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. “We have chosen at this time to ask that FOX News keep our advertising from this program.”
Four weeks ago, ColorOfChange.org called on its members to sign a petition urging companies who advertise on Glenn Beck to cut off their advertising support of his work. Shortly after reaching 150,000+ signatures, ColorOfChange.org began emailing those who signed the petition, asking them to call five major advertisers who continued to refuse to pull their ads: Clorox, Experian (creator of FreeCreditReport.com), Lowe’s, Red Lobster and Vonage. To date, Red Lobster is the only company in the group that has not yet responded. ColorOfChange.org still continues to reach out to those companies found running advertisements during Glenn Beck’s programs.
Previous companies who have corrected advertising errors and/or pulled their ads entirely include Airware Inc. (makers of Brez anti-snoring aids), Allergan (maker of Restasis), Ally Bank (a unit of GMAC Financial Services), Ancestry.com, Applebee’s, AT&T, Bank of America, Bell & Howell, Best Buy, Blaine Labs Inc., Broadview Security, Campbell Soup Company, ConAgra, Clorox, CVS, DirecTv, Ditech, The Elations Company, Experian (creator of FreeCreditReport.com), Farmers Insurance Group, GEICO, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson (makers of Tylenol), Kraft, Lawyers.com, Lowe’s, Men’s Wearhouse, NutriSystem, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, RadioShack, Re-Bath, Regions Financial Corporation, Roche, Sam (Store and Move), SC Johnson, Sanofi-Aventis, Sargento, Sprint, State Farm Insurance, Traveler’s Insurance, Travelocity, The UPS Store, Verizon Wireless, Vonage and Wal-Mart.
With more than 600,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is the largest African-American online political organization in the country.
Big news today. We've confirmed that eight more major advertisers have pulled their support from Glenn Beck's show -- Wal-Mart, Best Buy, CVS, Travelocity, Allergan (maker of Restasis), Ally Bank, Broadview Security, and Re-Bath.
Overall, twenty advertisers have now ended their support of Beck. We're going to keep the pressure on Beck's remaining advertisers this week, and we'll let you know how you can help.
Details, including statements from these companies and links to media coverage, after the jump ...
Eight more Glenn Beck advertisers, including Wal-Mart -- the world's largest retailer -- have confirmed to ColorOfChange.org that they pulled their ads from the controversial Fox News Channel broadcaster's eponymous show. Allergan (maker of Restasis), Ally Bank (a unit of GMAC Financial Services), Best Buy, Broadview Security, CVS, Re-Bath, Travelocity and Wal-Mart join the dozen other companies who previously distanced themselves from Beck.
Twenty companies have pulled their ads from Beck's show in just the last two weeks. The moves come after the Fox News host called President Obama a "racist" who "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" during an appearance on Fox & Friends. Previous companies who pulled their ads include ConAgra, GEICO, Lawyers.com, Men's Wearhouse, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, RadioShack, Roche, SC Johnson, Sanofi-Aventis, Sargento, and State Farm Insurance.
"We are heartened to see so many corporate citizens step up in support of our campaign against Glenn Beck," said James Rucker, executive director of ColorOfChange.org. "Their action sends a clear a message to Glenn Beck: Broadcasters shouldn't abuse the privilege they enjoy by spewing dangerous and racially charged hate language over the air. No matter their political affiliation, hate language doesn't belong in our national dialogue."
"Walmart [sic] today confirmed the retailer pulled ads from the Glenn Beck show on August 3rd," said David Tovar, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, in an email to ColorOfChange.org.
"While advertising on Fox is part of our communication plan, we had not requested time on Glenn Beck's show specifically," said Carolyn Castel, Vice President of Corporate Communications for CVS Caremark, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. "We have instructed our advertising agency to inform Fox to ensure Glenn Beck's program is not part of our advertising plan."
"Our position is simple," Castel continued. "We support vigorous debate, especially around policy issues that affect millions of Americans, but we expect it to be informed, inclusive and respectful, in keeping with our company's core values and commitment to diversity."
In an email exchange with ColorOfChange.org, Lisa Svac Hawks, Director of Public Relations for Best Buy, stated that any advertisements for Best Buy that were placed on Glenn Beck's show were done so in error. Svac Hawks pledged that Best Buy will correct any mistakes made.
"We did not specifically place our ad on the show," said Amanda Borichevsky, a spokesperson for Travelocity in an email to ColorOfChange.org. "We buy ads in bulk and then they are placed somewhat randomly. However, we have now specifically asked that our ads do not appear during this show."
"We reviewed our commercial schedule, and based on your feedback, we've put any programming featuring Glenn Beck on our "do not air" list," said Aziz Mottiwala, Senior Marketing Manager for Allergan, in an email to ColorOfChange.org. "This means that you will no longer see any Restasis ads during programming featuring Glenn Beck. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention."
"Ally advertises on a broad spectrum of programs to reach our potential customers," said a Customer Care Representative for Ally Bank. "Our advertising is not an endorsement of editorial content on any program. We have ceased to advertise on the Glenn Beck program."
In a phone conversation with Dwayne Sigler, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Broadview Security Systems, Sigler told ColorOfChange.org that Broadview's advertising is bought based on network, not particular programs, but that "given the considerations, we have requested of Fox News not to include us in the rotation that would have our commercials running on Glenn Beck's show."
"...We are no longer airing our commercials on the Glenn Beck Show..." said Mary Beth Mayer, spokesperson for Re-Bath, in a phone message to ColorOfChange.org.
As the list of advertisers who don't want themselves associated with Beck continues to grow, our campaign is also getting major media attention, which helps send a strong message to Fox and to Beck's remaining advertisers. Last week, our campaign was mentioned in several media and advertising industry publications, on MSNBC, in the New York Times, and by Stephen Colbert.
Thanks to everyone who has stepped up and joined this campaign (there are more than 145,000 of you now) -- this wouldn't be possible without your voice. What we've achieved so far is incredible -- it's rare for a campaign directed at a TV show's advertisers to be this successful.
But we won't stop here. We're going to continue reaching out to Beck's remaining advertisers, and we'll keep you informed on how you can help us escalate the pressure.
In a new video on the White House health care rumor-rebutting website, Mike Strautmanis, Chief of Staff for Valerie Jarrett and father of a child with autism, addresses rumors that health insurance reform will deprive children with disabilities of care. "We want to expand Medicaid .. we want to make sure people with disabilities aren't denied coverage," he said. "We want to reform the system to make it better for my child, my family, and yours."
The White House also sent out a "viral e-mail" from David Axelrod listing the ways health care reform should improve insurance coverage. The White House aide asks readers to combat "the viral e-mails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions" by starting "a chain e-mail of our own."
Afro-Netizen has joined several other leading bloggers in supporting the Progressive Change Campaign Committee's online initiative to determine the how interested the progressive netroots is in Pennsylvania and nationally for fielding a Democratic challenger to Sen. Arlen Specter.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, for the past decade, there
has been a lot of talk in Washington about broadband, but no one has
done much about it. That has now changed, as the Department of Commerce,
the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission
will explain how the Obama administration intends to use the provisions
of the stimulus bill to ensure that broadband technologies are
available to, and affordable for, every American.
Although urban and suburban Americans generally have a choice of
broadband providers, millions of exurban and rural households —
possibly as many as 8 percent of American households — don’t have
access to affordable broadband. Equally troubling, millions of American
households have broadband networks passing right in front of their
doorsteps, but for reasons not entirely clear, have decided not to
Though private industry will always be the primary
investor in and builder of our nation’s broadband infrastructure, there
are important roles that government must play if every American is to
realize the benefits of broadband.
The stimulus bill reflects a
recognition that you can’t cure a condition until you have diagnosed
it. Appropriately, the administration and Congress provide funding for
“mapping” broadband networks across the United States. Within two
years, Americans will have a clear sense of where (and whether) the
market is effectively delivering broadband, but also where additional
government assistance to ensure broadband availability will be
necessary. Some states have undertaken mapping efforts on their own,
but currently there are no commonly accepted metrics for meaningful
comparison of broadband availability, adoption speeds or pricing. Thus,
there is no reliable way of measuring where our nation (or any
particular state) stands with regard to broadband: we simply don’t have
a meaningful or reliable grading system.
Virtually every analyst
agrees that rural Americans are the least likely to have available
access to broadband. Geography and economics conspire against
investment in broadband in America. It is simply not easy to recoup
broadband investment in states where cattle outnumber people and homes
are dispersed widely. Fiber optic and other broadband technologies are
expensive to deploy in these areas, and broadband wireless technologies
are just now becoming fully viable for deployment.
Just as this
nation brought electricity, telephones and Internet service to rural
America, we must make broadband networks ubiquitously available, as
well. Appropriately, the lion’s share of this funding will address
broadband in unserved areas through programs at the Departments of
Commerce and Agriculture. In addition, funding will be available for
improving broadband networks at libraries, community colleges,
community technology centers and other locations where low-income
families and the working poor are most likely to go for broadband
access. According to Morgan Stanley, the national residential broadband
penetration rate is currently about 56 percent of all households. For
those 40 million plus households who don’t have broadband at home, and
for those tens of millions of Americans without basic Internet access
who disproportionately are poor, recent immigrants, senior citizens or
other minorities, these community investments will make broadband more
available and more accessible.
The adoption issue will be more
difficult to solve. The problem is that even where broadband exists,
many Americans simply don’t or won’t subscribe. A recent study by the
Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that many folks don’t
take broadband because of cost or because they don’t want it. We know,
for example, that Latinos and African Americans spend more than White
Americans for cellular, cable and satellite technologies and features.
Yet these same groups are less likely to be connected to broadband than
White or Asian Americans. Why? Is it cost? Is it value? Is it
availability? Is it a marketing failure? What are the best ways to
drive broadband adoption in these communities?
The culprit is more
likely that many non-subscribers don’t value broadband, because the
increased benefits to them and their families simply aren’t apparent.
Fundamentally, we need to more fully understand the value versus cost
equation. The stimulus package has significant funding to help shed
light on the adoption issue and to assist local governments and
organizations increase adoption of broadband, particularly among
The Obama administration is taking the
right steps. They are beginning the task of identifying the gaps in
broadband coverage in the United States. In those areas where broadband
is not available, particularly in rural and exurban America, they are
putting people to work building broadband networks. They are bringing
community access points to libraries, community colleges and community
technology centers — to the neighborhoods of tens of millions of
Americans. And where broadband is available but adoption rates are low,
they are promoting adoption by finding community-specific solutions.
The broadband era in America began more than a decade ago. The
broadband era in Washington begins today.