PSN is currently working with state legislators to both provide support to sponsors and build national messaging campaigns in order to move two pieces of legislation that focus on strategic integration of broadband into states long term plans. Moving these policies across multiple states will create opportunities for national messaging and mobilize the power of state action to move progressive broadband initiatives, and lead the way for bold federal reform. A key goal is to use these initiatives as a means to generate support for increased investment in broadband and motivation to leverage new broadband technologies to improve our economy, implement environmentally friendly and energy efficient policies and increase health care, education and social opportunities.
More on these and other policies can be found in Broadband and Technology Investments: Policy Options for 2009, PSN’s report detailing a range of bold policies states are introducing to ensure universal access to and adoption of affordable broadband, initiatives both comprehensive and incremental in scope.
The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has earmarked an unprecedented amount of money to broadband and associated technology programs. This recognition of the role broadband currently plays and will play in all aspects of our lives, from energy management to healthcare, underscores why its imperative for states to think strategically about how to facilitate universal broadband access and adoption and to integrate broadband into numerous state goals.
Beyond investing in physical infrastructure, states need to invest in education and community media infrastructure to overcome the digital divide. The digital divide not only refers to the gap in broadband adoption between different demographics, but also refers to imbalances in the resources and skills needed to participate as a digital citizen in the 21st century. Groups frequently disenfranchised in other parts of society, such as lowincome individuals and minorities, often have fewer opportunities togain essential digital skills.
AT&T's new cutting-edge television service, U-Verse, is creating frustration for community programming advocates and being investigated by both state and federal officials. After receiving a large number of complaints, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, launched an investigation into the U-Verse system's underminging of access to PEG channels (i.e. Public Education and Government stations).
On September 4, the ConnectME Authority awarded its second round of grant awards to bring broadbandcommunications services to unserved areas in Maine. More than $1.75 million was awarded and service is expected to be expanded to an estimated 12,500 residents. "This second round of grantsshows that the ConnectME initiative is spurring private investment inbroadband and cellular service across Maine," said Governor Baldacci. "These investments are enabling people in rural areas enhanced accessto technology, transforming our state economy, and expanding businessopportunities for more Mainers."
Broadband -- high-speed Internet -- is revolutionizing the way we work, learn, provide services, and play, and has the power to be a galvanizing political tool, uniting progressives across the nation. Combined with investments in digital inclusion programs that are needed to prepare the next generation of workers, and public investments in local technology, states can incorporate technological advancement as a key part of aprogressive economic growth agenda.
High-speed Internet has been one of the most transformative communication technologies in human history; just as important as other traditional public goods or infrastructure investments. It is no longer a luxury—but a public necessity. With universal and affordable high-speed Internet, states can leverage technology as an economic development tool and a means of providing better healthcare services, smarter environmental policies, and greater educational opportunities. As this packet will demonstrate, promoting increased access to and adoption of high-speed Internet,will not only provide many societal benefits, but can unite economic development experts, healthcare advocates, environmentalist, labor unions and educators.
Unfortunately, nearly 20 million Americans today do not have access to a single high-speed Internet provider, and even more are currently priced out of the market. In fact, roughly 40 percent of American households do not have broadband. This number shows how unprepared Americans are for the technology age in which they live. A closer look at the numbers reveals that access and use of the Internet is heavily weighted toward the upper echelons of society. Certain demographics have effectivelybeen left out of the digital renaissance.