Consumer, disability, and public policy groups, representing a diverse cross-section of the nation's interests, are calling on Congress to pass a law aimed at ensuring broadband access for all Americans. Representatives from over 71 organizations are visiting Washington this week to meet with Members of Congress to encourage passage of H.R. 1542, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2000, co-sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and the Commerce Committee's ranking Democrat John Dingell, (D-MI). The groups, representing the disabled, women, African-Americans, Latino-Americans, rural residents, business, and consumers in general, stated the tremendous value that broadband access has for their constituents and the ability of Tauzin- Dingell to deliver total access.
Rural Americans, Latino and African-Americans throughout the United States will benefit from the passage of this legislation that promises to ensure the deployment of broadband services in their underserved communities throughout the United States. According to reports from NTIA and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, Latino and African American households are only half as likely to own a computer as white households and approximately 2.5 times less likely to have Internet access from home than white households.
"By offering incentives for the deployment of high speed Internet access to rural and underserved, low-income urban communities, it creates the necessary market conditions for providers to deploy the much needed infrastructure to minimize the Digital Divide. In addition, the legislation fosters competition between all carriers who provide broadband services, offering a win-win scenarios for consumers, especially for Latinos throughout the United States," said Rick Dovalina, President, League of United Latin America Citizens (LULAC).
"Many small cities, and especially those far from large urban centers, are underserved by telecommunications providers. This important legislation provides incentives for carriers to enter our communities and offer a portfolio of services that can enhance the lives of our citizens. Currently, approximately 40% of the City Halls in the state of Georgia do not have access to the Internet, representing a digital divide in our houses of government. Small businesses, households and local governments will all benefit from this legislation," said Mayor Chuck Burris, Stone Mountain, Georgia.
"The Grange believes that rural Americans deserve access to the same basic public and commercial services that urban Americans enjoy. Advanced telecommunications services, such as high speed Internet access is one of those basic services. However, misguided government regulation is keeping those of us in rural areas from taking full advantage of E-commerce," stated Leroy Watson, Legislative Affairs Director, National Grange.
Small and minority-owned businesses would benefit from the reduced costs of online access. Over seventy percent of small businesses are home-based, and lack affordable choices for broadband communications.
"The Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001 will provide the type of deregulation necessary to ensure the playing field is leveled so all American businesses have access to all the Internet has to offer. That is why GrassRoots Impact is encouraging the passage of H.R. 1542. One national high speed Internet policy, rather than fifty state policies, will facilitate the development of a broadband infrastructure and the availability of advanced high speed Internet services," said TerryNeese, Co-Founder GrassRoots Impact, Inc. and Co-Founder and President, Women Impacting Public Policy.
Discussing consumer benefits and advantages to the US economy, Esther Shapiro, a long-time consumer activist, as well as Citizens for a Sound Economy spoke on the benefits of Tauzin-Dingell.
"We need to keep the focus on consumers in the broadband debate. It is about getting advanced services to all Americans as quickly as possible. When we have full deployment, all Americans can enjoy the life-enhancing opportunities of broadband. We need legislation, like the Tauzin-Dingell bill, to bring broadband to consumers all over America," said Esther Shapiro, Former Director, City of Detroit, Office of Consumer Affairs.
"The stagnation of the American economy is directly attributable to the slowdown in high tech capital investment. Consumer spending remains robust, but the Internet equipment industry, which accounted for a third of economic growth since 1995, is in recession. Over capacity in equipment has deflated prices and forced layoffs. H.R. 1542 would remove the artificial regulatory barrier to capital spending and provide a much-need boost to this industry and the economy as a whole," said Erick Gustafson, Director, Center for Consumer Choice, Citizens for a Sound Economy.