Report: Consumer Protection

A Public Interest Internet Agenda

Released by: Florida PIRG Education Fund

Broadband access is crucial to economic, educational and democratic participation in Florida and it’s critical that government make consumer friendly choices that empower communities while bringing access to every corner of the state.  Without consumer protective policies to guide them, the handful of corporations that sell broadband have done so at runaway rates, with poor service and have even avoided serving broadband to many of our most vulnerable communities.

As lawmakers formulate a strategy to deliver broadband to every community, this unique and valuable contribution from public interest advocates should be considered. We recommend that lawmakers embrace the following core principles:

1.   Every American should have access to Broadband communications.  Like the government’s past efforts to extend telephone coverage there must be universal and open, non-discriminatory access to high-speed and high-quality broadband.

2.   Good policy must be well informed. Policymakers must have access to reliable data on where broadband presently exists, at what speeds, of what quality, by what provider, how it is used by consumers, why certain consumers do not use it, and how other consumers integrate it into their lives. These data must be as granular as possible, and should be made available in raw form on the Internet for public analysis. 

3.   Policy should promote competition, innovation, localism, and opportunity. Locally owned and operated networks support these familiar core goals of communications policy, and therefore should receive priority in terms of federal and state support. Structural separation of ownership of broadband infrastructure from the delivery of service over that infrastructure will further promote these goals.

4.   Government should use public resources wisely. Policymakers should seek to leverage the use of resources and assets such as publicly-owned spectrum, fiber and rights-of-way to achieve the goal of universal broadband access to the Internet.

5.   Policy must stress digital inclusion and the service of traditionally disenfranchised communities. Stimulating broadband supply is necessary but not sufficient to achieve the goal of universal broadband. Policymakers must also promote digital inclusion to stimulate broadband demand and ensure that all residents have access to the digital skills and tools necessary to take advantage of the Internet’s enormous potential benefits in creativity, economic development and civic engagement. This benefits not just those on the wrong side of the Digital Divide, but all broadband users and our society.

A Public Interest Internet Agenda has been endorsed by over 40 local and national public interest organizations that work on media and telecommunications issues.

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