I was reminded Sunday by "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory of the combined effort made in the late 1950s between the U.S. Government and the private sector to challenge our technological prowess against our Soviet counterparts in the race to outer space. History has shown that when faced with difficult challenges, America's greatest asset is harnessing the best minds in government and the private sector. Several decades after our commitment to space exploration, we're having a similar debate on how technology is quintessential to our future.
In the battle over the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) meeting last week drew a line of demarcation regarding the highly contentious issue of network neutrality. This is a clear example of how Washington can be out of touch with the needs of the American people. Simply put, the statements made by the FCC Commissioners are only adding another complicated unnecessary issue to the President's plate.
Our country is at a critical point in the effort to achieve universal broadband, and as progress towards this goal is unnecessarily stalled, we are falling further behind while other countries continue to invest. In February, the FCC released its National Broadband Plan offering a strong framework to achieve universal Internet access. According to estimates in that Plan, $350 billion is needed if we are to offer the opportunities made possible by broadband Internet access to all Americans. Yet just when it seemed like we were on the right track, the FCC announced its "third way" plan - a plan to reclassify broadband under antiquated 1930s regulations. The implementation of this plan would obstruct the goal of universal broadband, and I strongly feel that it is not the right plan to provide economic empowerment to communities of color.
The stakes are high. And because the FCC's proposed third way plan could keep millions of disadvantaged Americans from accessing the economic and educational benefits of the Internet, Congress must take the lead. Congress' challenge is to determine how best to promote private investment in industries of the future - like telecommunications and technology - while stabilizing the economy and rebuilding the economies of the most devastated regions of the country.
The goal should be creating jobs, expanding small businesses and creating a regulatory environment that incentivizes "all" private investment to work in harmony with the United States Government as we transition into a digital based economy.
Title II threatens to impact our small businesses which rely heavily on affordable and high-quality Internet services. The correct policy approach should be to consider the negative impact that increased costs will have on small business which are the primary source of creating new jobs in our communities. With the state of our economy already fragile and our global position on broadband technology and adoption lagging, we simply cannot allow policies like the FCC's "third way" to become reality because, as quoted by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, "there is no government program that is as important or as empowering to a family as a job."
Friday, the Alliance for Digital Equality's (ADE) partner, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and several Civil Rights' organizations sent a letter to Congress expressing their frustration over the "third way" plan and laid out an alternative legislative path forward. Congress should now take full ownership of this issue as we need a balanced approach rather than increased government regulation, particularly as millions of Americans struggle to find employment.
America needs policies that bring economic empowerment and do not inhibit our potential. Small businesses and low-income communities are depending on Congress to take action and stop the "third way" policy before it's too late. With the right broadband plan our nation can realize the goals of the "JET Agenda:" new jobs, education and technology, providing essential opportunities to the un-served and underserved that will enable full participation in the Digital Revolution.