Protecting Internet freedom will close the digital divide. Period. End of story.

by Garlin Gilchrist II, Save the Internet

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski took questions via YouTube about the recently-released National Broadband Plan (NBP). One question posed to the chairman was about whether the plan would close the digital divide and be beneficial to low-income communities and people of color anxious to get online.

Chairman Genachowski’s response (video) was absolutely right that this plan, along with the FCC's other efforts to promote universal broadband Internet access and protect Internet freedom, will benefit everyone, especially those excluded from today's market.

One of the primary arguments made by the Digital Divide Astroturf Squad (Internet Innovation Alliance, Broadband Opportunity Coalition, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, etc.) is that curbing companies' ability to discriminate against people online will hurt innovation and make them less likely to expand access to their services. The tragic flaw in this argument is that if these companies could be trusted, there would be no digital divide.

The problem of the digital divide, once a matter of mere digital ignorance, is fast becoming one of digital access and representation. We have greedy, discriminating telecom interests to thank for this evolution. People know that a digital and connected future exists; they can't realize it because they are priced or mapped out of the market.

The National Broadband Plan and rules that explicitly protect the rights of consumers online are steps toward solving the problems of digital access and representation. With full and equal access to this platform, entrepreneurs can create venture after venture with the assurance that their commitment and the quality of their ideas will determine their success, not back room deals between their competitors and ISPs that tilt the scale against them. With full and equal access to this platform, young people of color can participate in the revolutionary acts of self-expression and self-definition without fear that their voices and images will be stamped out by forces seeking to make them invisible. This is what closing the digital divide is all about.

Equality and opportunity are core democratic and American values. These values are important in the digital world of tomorrow as they were in the analog world of yesterday. Let's protect and live up to them.

article originally published at Save the Internet.

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