Internet Innovation Alliance gets new co-chair

"We continue to emphasize the importance of the right policies to make sure ubiquitous broadband access is a reality," Sutphen said. "If you look at so many of the priorities of people on both sides of the aisle--education, health care, energy--every single one of those issues, as you peel back the layers of the onion, you begin to see how important broadband is."

The alliance has members on both sides of the net neutrality issue. On a panel last week, Mehlman said net neutrality has made a lot of noise and is perhaps distracting people in Washington from the bigger goal of universal broadband. He also said there is a lot of uncertainty in the market, and companies are waiting on decisions coming out of Washington that could directly impact their business plans.

"At the end of the day, we have an administration saying we need $350 billion in broadband investment," Sutphen said. "Last time I looked around I only saw $7 billion in stimulus funding" for broadband. The biggest challenge, he said, is deciding which issues to focus on when it comes to increasing broadband adoption in rural areas, minority communities and other underserved regions.

Sutphen served as general counsel to Sen. Ted Kennedy handling civil rights and telecom issues. He was also cheif of staff to former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford.