Last updated: April 7, 2010 - 8:17am
[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission's release last month of the National Broadband Plan holds profound implications for all of us who are working to expand opportunity in America. As the Internet becomes a gateway to democratic participation, economic opportunity, and human expression, it is critical to the future of our country -- and our philanthropic missions—to ensure that everyone has high-speed, or "broadband," access to an open Internet. That is a central goal of the federal government's new plan, which, among other things, also seeks to expand the wireless spectrum for mobile devices and create a digital literacy corps to help more people use online tools.
In years past, foundations have tended to view grant making focused on Internet policy as a "media" issue. The thinking was, "Let those grant makers already focused on media policy pursue that work, while others remain focused on their own important issues, from education and economic development to human rights and the arts." It's clear that this binary thinking no longer fits with contemporary reality.
Ford Foundation is committing $50-million over the next five years to support efforts that ensure both that broadband access to the Internet becomes a reality for all citizens and that public-interest values in the online space itself are protected. We want this to be an open conversation.
- Every person should have the opportunity to access high-speed Internet connections.
- Everyone should have a choice of providers to drive competition and innovation.
- Everyone should have the same legal rights and protections online as off¬line.
- We collaborate with citizens, companies, and government to build common-sense rules to prevent censorship and anticompetitive behavior that can stifle innovation.
In the civil-rights movement, the war on poverty, and many other landmark battles, foundations have stepped up at critical moments in our nation's history to fight for opportunity, equity, and the common good of all Americans. As the future of broadband access and freedom in America are under debate, foundations face a similar moment, and the country needs our resolve once again.
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