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Broadband and Democratization

Benton Foundation Renamed Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, Renewed Focus on Advanced Internet Networks

Masha Abarinova

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Photo of Adrianne Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society

On Tuesday, the non-profit Benton Foundation officially renamed itself the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, elevating the institution’s focus of ensuring that the benefits of advanced broadband networks are felt in every corner of the country.

“All Americans should have access to competitive, high-performance broadband regardless of where they live or who they are,” said Executive Director Adrianne Furniss. ”Open, affordable, robust broadband is essential for enabling all of us to reach for—and achieve—the American Dream. Our new name squarely reflects our accelerating efforts to advance policies that help ensure broadband opportunities for everyone.”

The top priorities of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society are:

  • Ensuring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband for all people in the U.S. to support a thriving democracy.
  • Advancing broadband policy—rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity—that delivers new opportunities and strengthens communities.
  • Supporting legal and policy experts who provide long-term planning and practical day-to-day resources to strengthen the public benefits of broadband, protect democratic values, and communicate why it matters.
  • Distributing the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily news digest connecting communications, democracy, and the public interest.
  • Connecting stakeholders to frame and promote more inclusive debates around broadband policy.

In a blog post, Furniss wrote on a personal note about her grandfather, the late Sen. William Benton, who in October 1944 articulated a progressive agenda on behalf of a coalition of business leaders that he called “the capitalists who cared enough about the system to save it.” Furniss’ father, Charles Benton, led the Benton Foundation for many years with a focus on the public interest impact of communications policies.

As the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the organization plans to unveil its new agenda, Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s, by collecting the lessons of communities, public-interest advocates, government officials and industry experts working to extend broadband’s reach.

In this way, the Benton Institute aims to use this information to form a national broadband agenda for the next decade.

Furniss said that for too many people, meaningful connectivity is out of reach. America’s broadband dilemma spans three inter-locking challenges; closing the geographical divide, harnessing competition and boosting affordability and adoption.

Jon Sallet, senior fellow at the Benton Institute and author of Benton’s new broadband agenda, will give a keynote address in October on how public policy focused on competition, deployment, adoption and community anchor institutions can deliver high-speed broadband to all Americans in the coming decade.

The Benton Institute also announced that Andrew Jay Schwartzman will continue his work with the newly rechristened Benton Institute.

“Expanding broadband deployment helps everyone, not just for those who don’t yet have it," said Schwartzman. "Enabling all Americans to communicate with each other promotes economic growth and, more importantly, the democratic process. Benton’s work is a logical extension of what it has been doing for more than 30 years.”

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