Think People

Remarks of Charles Benton
Co-Chair Adoption & Use Committee, U.S. Broadband Coalition
Federal Communications Commission
November 13, 2009

People are the "killer app." From e-mail, to digital pictures, to today's social media, connecting people to people has always been a motivating force for getting people on and keeping them on the Internet. And the value of the network grows and grows with each additional person on it.

Deployment, of course, is a threshold issue for the National Broadband Plan - one cannot use a tool that is not available to them. But today we focus on what comes after the wires - and the wireless. What will prepare, what will motivate, what will sustain people's use of the tool we here today know is critical to our nation's success moving forward?

Just as deployment has its many challenging questions about how to extend broadband's reach, adoption and use of broadband services and applications must also be addressed if we are to reach our full potential.

The policy options offered in this report point to solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity, and demonstrate the value of broadband for improving the quality of life for all.

Moving forward, the intensity of broadband use in each community and for every American will directly impact our ability to:

  • get and create jobs,
  • improve our health while lowering our healthcare costs,
  • learn and share the skills we need to compete in the global economy,
  • reduce our energy use to both save money and improve the environment,
  • keep people safe and improve our responses in emergencies, and
  • engage more people in our democracy.

Yesterday morning I attended a breakfast of The Great Neighborhoods Club sponsored by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation or LISC in Chicago. The featured speakers were Michael Scott, President of the Chicago Board of Education and Ron Huberman, Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools. What was startling to me was that every one of the major educational reforms described by both men were data driven. Likewise, I'm thinking about a fascinating lead article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, by David Leonhardt, "Making Health Care Better." This was a story about how the doctors at Intermountain Healthcare, a network of hospitals and clinics in Utah and Idaho, were improving patient services and care based upon regular systematic reviews of what was working and what was not working in their procedures. It was another data driven decision making process. The potentials for improving the quality of our lives through these new technologies are mind boggling.

We know that reaching our goal to be a fully-connected nation does not mean more, bigger wires (and cell towers). Reaching our goal and, specifically, connecting the not-yet-connected includes solutions that tap into:

  • Established community social and institutional networks,
  • Personal interactions and relationships, and
  • Make the best of people's motivating opportunities.

The FCC has a monumental, historic task to provide a coherent road map of goals and policies that complement and accelerate efforts in the marketplace to achieve universal adoption of affordable high-speed Internet connections. I trust this report will be an aide as the Commission considers maximizing the use of broadband networks and the use of broadband to address the challenges facing our nation.

By Charles Benton.