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The Broadband Plan’s Blueprint for Accessibility

March 12th, 2010 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

The Silicon Flatirons conference on The National Broadband Plan and Accessibility for People with Disabilities at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Washington, D.C. was a momentous occasion.  It was a day filled with aspirations and hope -- and a belief that we could and would come together and fulfill Congress’ vision of broadband access for all Americans, including those with disabilities.

The day started with a welcome to an overflowing crowd by Nancy Davenport, the Director of Library Services at the D.C. Public Library and Dale Hatfield, the Executive Director of Silicon Flatirons.  That was followed by powerful remarks by FCC Chairman Genachowski and the President’s Assistant for Disability Policy Kareem Dale. 

FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Chief Joel Gurin and I discussed the plan’s recommendations and implementation as well as the accessibility working paper which will be released soon.  We spoke of the plan’s recommendation that the Executive Branch should convene a Broadband Accessibility Working Group, which, among, other things, would work to ensure that the government itself is a model of accessibility.  We also announced that the FCC would establish an Accessibility and Innovation Forum at the FCC which would allow stakeholders to collaborate on accessibility solutions.  We also discussed several specific actions to address accessibility and affordability concerns that the FCC, Department of Justice, and Congress should take.

Then Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and Jenifer Simpson of the American Association of People with Disabilities (both co-sponsors of the event) moderated a lively roundtable discussion among Eric Bridges, Vint Cerf, Rosaline Crawford, Larry Goldberg, Jason Goldman, Link Hoewing, Leah Katz-Fernandez, Fernando Laguarda, Axel Leblois, Susan Mazrui, Ari Ne’eman, Laura Ruby, Ken Salaets, Kate Seelman, and Gregg Vanderheiden.

We discussed many of the plan’s details, but it was the big picture ideas and fundamental principles – on which there was much agreement -- that carried the day:
 

  1. Broadband is a big deal. (sandraleesmith46).
  2. Accessibility equals independence. (Kareem Dale)
  3. Knowledge is power. (Eric Bridges)
  4. Knowledge is power, but so is community. (Ari Ne’eman)
  5. Information sharing is power. (Vint Cerf)
  6. Innovation often happens in unexpected ways. (Link Hoewing)
  7. There is a key role for innovation in solving accessibility challenges, especially when inclusion is part of the planning from the beginning. (Fernando Laguarda)
  8. [F]or the first time in history . . . the rights to access is a fundamental right for persons with disabilities in international law. (Axel Leblois)
  9. With broadband Internet access, I do not feel disabled. (Leah Katz-Hernandez)
  10. Now is the time to engage in this endeavor in earnest and show that we do indeed believe that this is a big deal. (Chairman Genachowski)

You can see video of the conference at http://www.FCC.gov/live.

The blueprint in the National Broadband Plan is ambitious, and we are heartened by all those who have expressed commitment to work with us to implement the vision.  More soon on how we plan to keep the momentum going, but in the meantime, thank you to all those who have helped shape the plan and make it a vehicle to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to broadband communications.

6 Responses to “The Broadband Plan’s Blueprint for Accessibility”

  1. Howard Tanner says:

    Although the new Broadband Plan is admirable in many ways, I have a couple of issues with it. Unfortunately, I can find no where to contact the working group, so I'm posting my comments here. I hope you will forward these to the team members.

    I understand that you're goal is to provide 100 Mbps service to 100 million people (100 squared is what I believe the proposal is called). Although this is admirable, this is not fast enough. Most of the top economic countries in Europe and Asia already have 100 mbps service to the house. To be competitive, we need 1 Gbps to the home by 2020, not 100 mbps.

    Note that I already have 100 Mbps service from Cablevision. It costs me $99/month. Verizon would charge me $145/month for 50 Mbps. That is, of course, if Verizon actually offered FIOS to my development. I live in Marlboro, NJ, and my ONLY choice for high-speed internet (no, DSL is NOT high speed) is Cablevision. Fortunately, they're pretty good (and MUCH better than Comcast or AT&T).

    Also, we need to focus more on wireless broadband as a free government service, especially in population dense areas. 300 Mbps over wireless is possible TODAY (WiMax). Instead of working with cell phone providers to enable this technology (and being charged usurious amounts for slow speeds), we should create a government sponsored wireless infrastructure, like the roads.

    Please fell free to contact me at htanner at gmail.

  2. Howard Tanner says:

    Sorry, that should be "feel free"! Please fix my post. Thanks.

  3. Guest says:

    I am disabled and use the internet as my main access to the world outside my home. My internet provider, Comcast, has threatened to shut off my service because I use the internet too much. So my question is what good is 100 Mbps if you can't use it? There must be no limit on usage.
    Thankyou,
    ankinney@comcast.net

  4. Rita Kowalski says:

    As a person with disabilities, my internet access is vital to my life. It connects me to not only the world around me, but to my doctor, nurse practitioner and other members of my healthcare team. It is a shame that so much of my very limited income must be used for this service, especially since I am one of those people who have absolutely no health care coverage whatsoever. If the ISPs could be somehow mandated to provide some sort of service that is both somewhat reasonable and fast, it would be a boon to not only those of us who rely on it for our health and lives, but for everyone. I would be able to possibly utilize it for some type of work, as I had to retire from my work as a registered nurse. I am willing to do whatever I can to work toward this goal. Please feel free to contact me at Ritarn1@aol.com for any further comment or if I can be of any assistance in any manner in this project.

  5. Michael Ponder says:

    I live out in a rural area, their is no broadband, im worried about who ever would bring broadband here would only limit us much like satellite internet limits, i think limiting people is idiotic, no one should pay a service and then be punished just cause they used it, TV never did that to me.
    I have mental disabilities, i can not handle open society, so i communicate to the outside world via internet, sadly dial up is too slow where i live and broadband does not exist.
    I am so worried about who ever ends up providing where i live will just want to cut me off and tell me i use too much, something needs to be done about that.

  6. Guest says:

    The broadband plan is interesting but I think that it will fail to meet the basic goals set forth with it’s initial inception. If 2/3 of the country has access now and the goal is to get access for the remaining 1/3, I have no faith in the plan that it will be delivered. This idea has two goals, Access availability and Enhanced current access.

    I live in the most expensive county in Kansas and in the souther Kansas City area. The community I live in has about 100 houses about a mile from the end of the cable system provided by Time Warner, and they will not extend it because it would require putting the cable underground for about 300 yards, what a sham! The engineer for the area said he talks to a neighbor from the area at least once a week and it is not in his plan to do anything, just not worth messing with for the potential customers.

    AT&T (fiber) installed their service to an adjacent new subdivision, but they will not run it to the surrounding homes since they are taxed for the line if used or not and the engineers at AT&T stated they are not allowed to install lines in areas that do not meet population density internal guidelines. Funny that the new subdivision only has two homes and none are being built.

    The new broadband plan will only enhance the service to those who are within CURRENT access options, and those without will be without when it is done and the 1/3 who’s taxes went to the plan will still be stuck with the slowest dial or overcharged - limited cell cards.

    In the end I believe the big companies will make millions off of the tax payers all the time charging more and more to those who the plan was to help to get service. This plan is not going to work for both objectives because the big companies are only after as much $$ as they can get and the idea of providing service to those areas with lower density is not profitable as was stated by Time Warner and AT&T.

    Good luck with the Broadplan!

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