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12/5/2008
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Internet Group Wants Broadband In Every Pot

InternetforEveryone.org plans to host nationwide discussions and send public input to President-elect Obama for inclusion in a national broadband strategy.

A coalition of more than 120 public-interest organizations plans to host a series of town hall meetings to discuss the future of the Internet and public access to broadband.

InternetforEveryone.org (PDF) will hold meetings, beginning Saturday, across the United States to invite people from all walks of life to discuss the importance of the Web. The group aims to provide all Americans with high-speed, open, and affordable Internet access.

The group said that although high-speed Internet has become a necessity, more than 40% of U.S. homes use dial-up services or have no Internet connection at all. It cited figures from the U.S. Census Bureau revealing that more than 16 million California residents can't access or afford a high-speed connection.

"President-elect Barack Obama talked about the importance of the Internet on the campaign trail, and getting more people online is part of his policy platform," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press, which is coordinating the meeting. "Getting the entire country connected won't be like flipping a switch. But the conversation about how to put broadband into every home in America needs to start now."

Tatyanna Wilkinson, program manager at Project T.E.C.H., which offers adult computer training and literacy classes in Los Angeles, said that during the presidential campaign many of her clients had to use public computers to watch campaign interviews, hear speeches, or find election results.

"If they try to watch a YouTube video on dial-up and it takes 25 minutes to load, they just walk away frustrated," she said in a statement.

InternetforEveryone is stressing the Internet's role in allowing young people to innovate, invent, and compete. Now that it's a necessity, half a generation of young people lack the same opportunities as their counterparts throughout the United States and the world.

"Without Internet access, youth aren't able to access information for scholarships and grants," said Brian Mendez, director of Change Agent Productions, a group that teaches digital skills to youth in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Long Beach. "They're not able to access something as simple as a college application or resources to complete their school work."

The group will deliver public input from the meeting to the White House and ask that it be included in a national broadband strategy.

"The Washington lobbyists and technocrats will have plenty of chances to weigh in on Internet policy," Karr said. "But to truly achieve policy that reflects the needs of the nation, we must listen to the people who have been shut out of these debates for too long."

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