New Plan Outlines Sensible Steps to Bring Broadband Service to Communities Across U.S.

September 29, 2010

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2010

Contact: Rachel Zaentz
202.667.0901, c 202.758.6242

Washington, D.C. – To mark the one-year anniversary of the Knight Commission’s groundbreaking report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today released the first in a series of White Papers focused on the Commission’s 15 recommendations for creating healthy informed communities across the country.

Universal Broadband: Targeting Investments to Deliver Broadband Services to All Americans, by Blair Levin, the lead author of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, outlines a detailed, sensible plan for deploying broadband networks to 99% of the U.S. population in 10 years—without requiring any additional federal funding. The plan’s release comes as the federal government prepares to announce the final stimulus grants for broadband expansion.

The paper focuses on addressing the two greatest obstacles to expanding broadband. First, it lays out a clear plan for policy makers to restructure and repurpose the current federal system for expanding high-speed internet access.  Second, the paper recommends several ways to encourage non-adopters to embrace broadband use by changing the way the government and the American public as a whole use high-speed internet networks.

“With the public skeptical of further increases in government spending, policy makers need to demonstrate to voters both fiscal responsibility and the practical value of broadband,” said Levin. “Government services, public safety, e-health, education and civic engagement programs that utilize broadband in smart, effective ways will demonstrate to all Americans the positive impact high-speed internet access can have on their daily lives,” said Levin.

Specifically, the paper recommends a ten-year transition to shift over $15 billion of current, inefficient expenditures, to a more efficient system that allows for experimentation and is designed to address today’s needs.  With the repurposed money, Levin suggests, the FCC should create:

  • a Connect America Fund to support the provision of affordable broadband and voice specifically to those areas where, without such support, broadband would not be available;
  • a Mobility Fund to ensure no states are lagging significantly behind the national average for broadband wireless coverage; and
  • a National Digital Literacy Corps to teach digital literacy skills and enable private sector programs addressed at breaking adoption barriers.

Topics to be covered in other white papers scheduled for release in the upcoming months include digital and media literacy, local journalism, public media, civic engagement, open government, and the need for high-quality online hubs in every community.

“As the Knight Commission observed, information is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools, and public health,’” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “It is our hope that these papers will spur thoughtful discussions and action at the local and national levels on what is needed to create healthy informed and engaged communities throughout the nation.”


The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy was a blue ribbon panel of seventeen media, policy and community leaders that met in 2008 and 2009. Its purpose was to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs. Its Report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, was the first major commission on media since the Hutchins Commission in the 1940’s and the Kerner and Carnegie Commissions of the 1960’s.

The Commission’s aims were to maximize the availability and flow of credible local information; to enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of knowledge and exchange; and to encourage people to engage with information and each other within their geographic communities. Among its 15 recommendations the Commission argues for universal broadband, open networks, transparent government, a media and digitally literate populace, vibrant local journalism, public media reform, and more local public engagement.

The Knight Commission is a project of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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