For many progressives, “getting the Internet right” means addressing what they see as undue market power in the provision of broadband and, even more so, the potential for the abuse of that market power, as the Internet is seen as a landmark tool for social and political empowerment. Crafting a progressive broadband agenda that protects consumers and allows for innovation is key to the future of broadband in America.
In my latest report, Shaping the Digital Age: A Progressive Broadband Agenda, I outlined a progressive broadband policy agenda that consists of five key objectives:
- We must close the “digital divide” by leveraging all platforms. Given the dispersed populations across the country we should integrate a cloud-based, wireless framework or a mixed system in which signal is taken over wirelines to hubs that serve wireless customers. But the idea that “it must be wired” has been dispelled by the rapid advance of wireless broadband.
- We must bring more spectrum—the “airwaves” that “fuel” wireless—to the market to alleviate the spectrum crunch. Greater use of auctions, encouraging spectrum sharing, and looking to the government to give up its unused spectrum are all possibilities.
- We must explore “informating” key sectors of the economy. Broadband has the power to transform non-market sectors of the economy such as health, education and the environment. These entities will be driven by more than just market signals, and for that reason, we should look at positive programs to improve their performance.
- We must protect personal privacy. Movement within the broadband space invariably creates a trail of data. Progressives must honor rights of privacy in the digital age that and look at the role of transparency and choice in protecting consumers.
- We should examine the role of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC labors under outdated law. While many of its missions—such as public safety—are legitimate, we should realistically evaluate limitations on its ability to deal with the real challenges of the digital age.
The fact that the Internet has become a driving force in shaping daily life doesn’t mean that it can’t be governed primarily by market forces. In fact, those forces have already delivered a competitive, innovative, and rapidly disseminating broadband network. There is a more appropriate policy agenda for progressives that would achieve important progressive goals in a way that “neutrality” and other regulatory forays cannot and will not.
To read the report, please visit http://www.progressivepolicy.org/2013/07/shaping-the-digital-age-a-progressive-broadband-agenda/