Last updated: October 8, 2008 - 12:13pm
Mapping the areas where Americans have access to various broadband Internet services and making this information publicly available are key steps in closing the digital divide, said attendees of a Sept. 26 broadband policy summit -- yet current federal policies prohibit the release of this information. Kenneth Flamm, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said people need to recognize that broadband access is a key piece of public infrastructure. "Broadband infrastructure will become an essential part of the economic structure," he said, adding that fast Internet connections are a "quality-of-life" issue. Rachelle Chong of the California State Public Utilities Commission said California is lucky in that Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed with the need for broadband expansion. "He understood that if you don't have broadband, you're not going to have state-of-the-art economic development," she said. The utilities commission, she explained, had to convince policy makers that broadband access is a necessary piece of infrastructure. "If you let it wane, citizens are disadvantaged when they get their education," she said, noting that providers tend to invest in urban areas but not in disadvantaged areas of California. "We want to ensure that no child is left behind because of the digital divide."
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