Tag Archives: Digital Divide

New ITIF Report: "Explaining International Broadband Leadership"

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has just released a new report examining in depth broadband policies in 9 nations, and concludes that while we shouldn’t look to other nations for silver bullets or assume that practices in one nation will automatically work in another, U.S. policymakers can and should look to broadband best practices in other nations.

Learning the right lessons and emulating the right policies here will enable the United States to improve our broadband performance faster than in the absence of proactive policies. The report analyzes the extent to which policy and non-policy factors drive broadband performance, and how broadband policies related to national leadership, incentives, competition, rural access, and consumer demand affect national broadband performance. Based on these findings the report makes a number of recommendations to boost U.S. broadband performance.

Executive Summary (pdf)
Full Report (pdf)

The report is extensive, and has some very good policy recommendations that should be heeded by all levels of government.

Overall, at the broadest level, nations with robust national broadband strategies–that is, those that make broadband a priority, coordinate across agencies, put real resources behind the strategy, and promote both supply and demand–fare better than those without.

Testimony to the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee

On December 12, 2007, I gave the following testimony to the New York City Council Broadband Advisory Committee. You can download a PDF version for printing as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Broadband Advisory Committee and Members and Staff of the New York City Council, I would like to thank you for inviting me here today to provide my testimony and provide what I hope is useful guidance on the issue of broadband availability and uptake in New York City. I hope to speak to you today about two things: one, about NYCwireless as an organization and the work that we do, and two, about the vision that we share for building a ubiquitous, affordable high-speed internet access infrastructure that will become a shining example of a truly 21st century city.

As an organization, we were founded in early 2001 by some enterprising technology enthusiasts who, in their spare time, wondered about how they could use this new technology called 802.11 and share it with their neighbors. They took an access point and hung it out their window, to see if they could receive a signal on their laptop from next door. Upon successfully connecting to their home internet connection from their neighbor’s place, they began to think big, about what would happen if more people on their block had Wi-Fi access points, and everyone that had a laptop could connect with each other via wireless signals and communicate in ways that were previously unimaginable.

Since those early days, we’ve grown as an organization. We were one of the inventors of the phenomena of Community Wireless. We were the first group to light up a public space at Tompkins Square park. We assisted struggling software companies regain access to the internet in downtown Manhattan after 9/11. We were the first to bring public Wi-Fi to the forefront when we lit up Bryant Park in 2002, and we continue to this day to build free Wi-Fi in city parks and public spaces.
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Wi-Fi and the Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is a topic for great discussion for the past decade or two, since computers and information systems have permeated our society and culture. Many people have proposed solutions, and many have helped address some of the Divide’s many components. It is spoken about often, and has been categorized and explained from many angles. Fundamentally, it refers to the chasm that exists in our society between the have’s and the have-not’s, and about the inability for the have-not’s to join the ranks of the have’s. It is, in part, a problem of economics.

So how does Wi-Fi fit in?

The Digital Divide, in part, can be solved by proper application of technology. Indeed, technology is the silver bullet for the Digital Divide that has been trumpeted by politicians and corporations alike. But in reality, it is more about the use of technology, and not the acquisition of it. This point is often confused by many who talk about the bridge that it can help form. Technology must be both affordable, to address economic problem, as well as assistive in its use in helping people better themselves.

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