The Open Internet and the Digital Divide

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[Commentary] At a May 20 House oversight hearing, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler emphatically defended the Commission’s latest open Internet proposal saying, “There is one Internet. Everybody ought to have open, equal access to the capacity delivered by the Internet." But what is the impact of open Internet policies on the digital divide?

Since May 15, Washington has been abuzz with addressing a fundamental question posed by the Federal Communications Commission: “What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open?”

At the Benton Foundation, we’ve been particularly interested in how the FCC made it a point to highlight that its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeks comment on questions designed to consider the impact of the open Internet on ensuring broadband access for all communities.

In particular, the FCC highlights, the NPRM: 1) asks whether any parts of the nation are being left behind in the deployment of new broadband networks, including rural America and parts of urban America; and 2) considers the impact of the proposals on groups who disproportionately use mobile broadband service.

The Open Internet and the Digital Divide