Broadband internet can help curb rising college costs

With the economy stuck in neutral, improving skills and increasing educational attainment remain keys to our economic recovery and long-term national health.  But with tuition rising faster than inflation, getting a college degree or securing the skills needed for a 21st century job is as hard as it’s ever been.
We need to contain the cost of education by utilizing new tools to allow people to get the training they need to get a job.  The good news is that we have the technology and tools to do this.  The bad news is that the policies and infrastructure necessary to drive cost savings to students, like ubiquitous access to high-speed Internet access, are not in place.
Distance education is, by far, the fastest growing portion of higher education. It’s cheaper to deliver a course online than face-to-face.  Students who participate using broadband place much less of a strain on an institution’s resources like light, heat, and parking lots.  In addition, distance education courses typically do not have pre-scheduled lectures with required attendance.  Instead, students rely on videos and other multimedia presentations.  With content delivery available at the student’s discretion, students are freer to move through a course at their own pace, rather than a fixed course schedule.


Broadband and small business

In today's challenging economy, small business owners with high-speed Internet connections are finding that the advantages of online tools and a web presence far outweigh the costs of getting connected.  The disadvantages of not accessing broadband are growing, which is why our nation must continue to focus on initiatives that bring access to everyone while encouraging greater adoption.  As more Americans conduct business online, small firms will become more dependent on quality, reliable broadband connections.  It will be a necessity to stay competitive and take advantage of growth opportunities. 

The best way to meet this challenge is to advance initiatives that help get everyone online while keeping the Internet open and free for business. That's why we've applauded the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) work on formulating a national broadband plan to bring the Internet to all Americans, and to help our country's businesses maintain their leadership in the global marketplace.


Building a broadband future

Right now in America, one-third of kids are dropping out of high school—among minorities the rate is fifty percent.  This does not bode well for America’s place in the Information Age.

Today, most of our citizens have their medical history strewn across pages of paper records.  We still carry illegible prescriptions by hand to a pharmacist, hoping they accurately decipher what drug was ordered.  Too many citizens in rural communities lack access to specialists critically needed for their care.  Costs are going up, but health care quality is not.

Our energy transmission system is horribly inefficient.  The power company does not typically know when the power is out, until someone calls.  A smarter grid would not only improve the efficiency of our power use, it would help preserve the quality of our environment.


Congress: Invest in Intelligent Transportation Systems to create jobs

As Congressional leaders work to craft a jobs package that will address our nation’s alarming unemployment levels, they would do well to invest in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and other transportation projects that will modernize our nation’s aging infrastructure and improve the performance of our multimodal transportation systems.

ITS technologies are beginning to move our national transportation network into the digital age, and are already providing major improvements in transportation safety, mobility, efficiency, and the environment.  A few examples include high-tech traffic and freight management systems, synchronized and adaptive traffic signals, smart transit systems, electronic tolling systems, weigh-in-motion truck inspections, ramp metering, advanced condition assessment technologies, and real-time traffic, transit and parking information. 

Investing in ITS will create new jobs quickly because these technologies can be deployed without a lot of new construction or right-of-way issues.  And 50 percent of every dollar spent on ITS deployment goes directly to wages and salaries, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).


Closing the digital divide through broadband expansion (Rep. Doris Matsui)

Growing up in the Central Valley of California, my education relied heavily on textbooks and local libraries.  As I got older, I used the newspaper to find my first part-time job and applied to college through a mail-in application.  After I got married, my husband and I shared photos of our young son through slides at family gatherings.  Today, I watch my grandchildren use the Internet to collaborate on projects with school children across the Atlantic; and my son can collect witness testimony through teleconference across the country. 

I recognize that the American way of life has changed dramatically since my youth, due in large part to our ability to communicate instantly via the Internet.  However, not every American family can afford up to $60 per month for broadband services at home, putting themselves and their children at a disadvantage.

Today, young and old Americans look to the Internet to provide necessary information to succeed and in-home broadband service offers an immediate wealth of knowledge to their door.  As we all know, recent economic hardship has meant tighter pocketbooks and many amongst us have been forced to make cut-backs.  In the current economic climate, an increasing number of hardworking Americans simply cannot afford to pay the high costs for broadband services.  At a time when consumers need the Internet more than ever to seek employment assistance, education, health care, and to manage their finances, this vital and convenient information source Internet plays a vital role in our economic recovery.


Update online privacy laws now

Congress and the Federal Trade Commission are gathering information to consider rules to protect consumer privacy on-line from potential commercial abuse.  Efforts at reform are missing the mark if they don’t address the very real privacy concerns raised by government surveillance and other law enforcement demands for bulk data collection and access to information.

There is broad agreement that Internet users need to know what information is being collected about them and have privacy policy information delivered in ways they can easily understand.  Thus, businesses are focusing on crafting pro-consumer practices that are transparent and provide consumers with more meaningful choices. Internet sites know they are a click away from a customer leaving if they don’t like the privacy policy.  But privacy becomes a more critical issue where there is little competition and few choices, as we see with Internet Access Providers, or just one choice, as with government agency services on-line.


Time for net neutrality (Rep. Ed Markey)

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a historic step towards developing new rules to safeguard the free and open nature of the Internet, fulfilling a key campaign promise of President Obama's and kicking off a process that has been years in the making.

If adopted, the Commission's net neutrality protections will ensure that users have unfettered access to all lawful online content and applications. These measures, which will be crafted over the coming months by the FCC, are urgently needed to preserve the openness and competition that have made the Internet the most successful communications medium in human history.

Since its earliest days, the Internet has been guided by the principles of non-discrimination and freedom. That means that all ones and zeros are treated equally and special interests and Corporate America can't direct Internet traffic to serve their own purposes at the expense of the public.


Support net neutrality (Rep. Jared Polis)

As an entrepreneur and creator of several successful internet start-ups, I have long been an ardent supporter of open access to the internet and continue to support net neutrality in Congress today. Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding an important meeting to consider a net neutrality framework for the internet.

The decisions that the FCC makes impact the future of the internet itself. By enshrining open access into regulation, the FCC can ensure that the internet remains a level playing field for innovative content, services, and applications and does not break apart into various pay-to-play private networks.


Preserving Democracy in the Digital Age

If you’re reading this post, you’re incredibly empowered. Empowered by boundless information, opportunity, and by access. Despite the seemingly pervasive nature of 21st century technological achievements, many Americans are not easily able to see these very words.

To see this post, you need to have access to a computer and the Internet, which means you likely have broadband access. You may even have an RSS feed from this blog. Or maybe you are a thoughtful citizen who intends to post a comment and discuss what we’re saying. Maybe you’ll even forward this to people you think should read it, and blog about the topic yourself.

These basics, that many take for granted, are actually not basic for a large population of Americans. About 37 percent of adult Americans don’t have easy access to the Internet at home. That means they can’t easily access news and information that they need to conduct their day-to-day lives. And they can’t be active, informed, and engaged citizens in a democracy.

Last Friday the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy released Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age which sets a vision for healthy, informed, democratic communities. The Commission spent a year and a half talking with people across the nation and studying how citizens in different communities get their news and information. It asked if current news is supporting community needs and goals, such as community problem solving, coordinating civic activity, maintaining public accountability, and fostering human connectedness. And it found that much more can and should be done to make our communities healthy from an information standpoint. 


Investing in Anchor Institutions (Rep. Doris Matsui)

Click. Download. Hyperlink. Open. Select. Copy. Paste. Print.

Sound familiar?  For many of us, high-speed broadband access is something we have at work, and at our homes.  But for millions of Americans, broadband access is either unavailable or unaffordable.

Broadband access provides supportive technology for households, schools, libraries, and health facilities in my hometown of Sacramento and in communities across the country.  In the current economic climate, more and more hard working families need access to the internet to find a new job, manage their finances during this difficult period, obtain news alerts, and apply to college.  And it is important that we continue to fund anchor institutions in underserved areas to help our communities grow.

That’s why I have urged the Obama Administration to prioritize funding for broadband infrastructure made possible by the Recovery Act for essential “anchor institutions” - the schools, libraries and community centers that provide access to the internet for Americans all across the country.

Last week I sent a letter with my colleagues Anna Eshoo and Ed Markey to the NTIA to help ensure our concerns are addressed.  Anchor institutions are essential to providing broadband access to unserved and underserved populations unable to maintain computer service in individual homes because of financial or technological impediments.  Anchor institutions allow lower-income Americans, especially in urban areas, greater access to broadband technology at little or no cost.

Building high-capacity broadband pipes will have transformative impacts on local communities.  It will create jobs, allow our children to obtain a better education, deliver high-quality health care at a lower cost, improve job-training centers, and enhance public safety.  Bringing high-capacity broadband to schools and libraries will also help strengthen our communities, and provide access to broadband to those Americans who need it most.