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Broadband and Civic Participation

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As part of the economic stimulus package passed in February, Congress gave the Commerce Department up to $7.2 billion to dole out in grants that promote universal high speed internet access. The legislation also required the Federal Communications Commission to submit a national broadband plan to Congress by February 17, 2010, that will "ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability."

One of the many issues the FCC's plan is required to address is the use of broadband infrastructure and services to advance civic participation. In April, the FCC asked for comments on what such a broadband plan should look like. A first round of comments was due by June 8, 2009, with a second round of comments due by July 7, 2009.

The Sunlight Foundation submitted comments on what a national broadband plan should look like, focusing on the relationship between increased broadband access and civic participation.

We argue that "changes in how (and what) we can communicate, and the speed with which we can do so, will profoundly reshape our democracy. Universal broadband access, ever-increasing bandwidth, and respect for the basic principles underpinning the internet, such as privacy and network neutrality, will result in greater civic involvement in our democracy and stronger connections to one another." Increasing government transparency will further catalyze civic participation.

Even with sufficient bandwidth, however, "all users must be able to access the internet," including those with the least financial means and those living in rural areas.

Read the full comment below.