WASHINGTON, March 10, 2010 – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on Tuesday compared broadband expansion in the United States to the development of the interstate highway system under President Eisenhower, speaking at the Knight Center for Digital Inclusion.
Also speaking at the event was Federal Communications Commissioner Chairman Julius Genachowski, who addressed the various impacts of broadband on the wider economy and the need for expansion in order to spur innovation. Genachowski also commented on the fact that the United States has fallen behind on key metrics; once number two globally, the United States has fallen to a distant 15 in connectivity.
As for Donovan, he said that access to the Internet is crucial for citizens economic growth.
“We see our work as fundamentally a gateway to opportunity” by giving citizens access to the internet they are able to expand their knowledge and find new and better opportunities, he said. The largest limiting factors for the non-adopters who have access are cost of access (both of a computer and internet service) and digital literacy.
A recent study by the FCC appears to confirm this, and highlights the fact that high costs is one of the key reasons why individuals do not subscribe to internet access.
Donovan urged the government to work across departments, and with public and private organizations, to help connect all Americans.
Commissioners Meredith Attwell Baker and Mignon Clyburn also spoke about the need for providing access to those Americans who cannot obtain access.
Commissioner Michael Copps made the most poignant comments, stating that “broadband access should be a civic right. Access denied is opportunity denied." He also said that the future town square would be paved with broadband bricks.
Also speaking at the conference was Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. Terry highlighted the need for reforming the Universal Service Fund. The broadband plan is a good first step, he said, but increased reform is necessary to truly help those who rely on the USF to obtain high-speed internet access.