Local groups ask Congress to overcome economic barriers to broadband

Nine organizations representing state and local elected officials today sent a letter urging members of Congress to put special emphasis on overcoming social and economic obstacles that hinder access to high-speed Internet service around the country.

The National Lieutenant Governors Association and the National Association of Counties told Congress that the national broadband plan being developed in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission should not just focus on making broadband service available to all communities.

The plan also needs to address the most common hurdles that prevent a large segment of the population from benefiting from high-speed Internet: low income levels, lack of computer ownership and training, and the perceived lack of relevant content on the Web.

Congress has already set aside $250 million for programs that will help educate non-broadband users about how to use the service.

While broadband adoption is rising in many areas, the letter pointed out that only 63 percent of households have broadband access. "For certain demographic groups, the adoption rate is well below 50 percent... This indicates that there are other barriers that need to be addressed," the letter said.

The letter was sent to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and the ranking members of each committee.

Co-signers include the National Conference of Hispanic Legislators, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and Women in Municipal Government. A copy of the letter can be found here.

-Kim Hart