By Paula Ellis, VP/Strategic Initiatives
The Internet is no longer a luxury item. It’s an essential tool for all Americans, whether they are looking for jobs, better educational opportunities or quality health care.
Yet still, one-third of all Americans— 100 million people – have not adopted broadband high-speed Internet at home, the Pew Research Center has found. Simply put, they, and their families, are being left behind.
That's why today, the Federal Communications Commission in partnership with Knight and other nonprofit and business leaders, is launching Connect to Compete, which will make the Internet accessible and relevant to more Americans by reducing service costs, expanding digital literacy training and making the Internet more relevant to people's lives.
Achieving wide-scale adoption requires that the Internet be useful. That’s why this effort also focuses on developing relevant, practical ways to use the Internet for daily living. For example, a mom might use it to help her child with his homework, or her husband search or train for a job.
Knight will help guide the effort by participating on the Connect to Compete advisory council, and by providing funding for a planning grant to One Economy to create this public-private partnership. The foundation’s support is a continuation of its commitment to universal access. Since 2005, the foundation has invested more than $18 million, first in broadband infrastructure in several communities including Akron, Philadelphia, Detroit and Miami and more recently in digital literacy and adoption.
Through this initiative, One Economy will integrate the efforts of businesses such as Best Buy and Micorsoft, nonprofits and government entities. They're trying to create a new platform for unifying these previously disconnected efforts that, as One Economy CEO Kelley Dunne says, is "repeatable" in cities and towns, large and small, across America.
Knight has worked with One Economy since 2001 and we're glad to partner again with an organization and leader with the vision, know-how and tenacity to unite others to bring about this transformational change.
Two years ago, the policy recommendations of the Knight Commission on Information Needs helped put broadband access on the national agenda. Connect to Compete is an opportunity to build on these recommendations and create real change to help ensure that all Americans can use the Internet to improve their lives and their communities.
Today is a special day. It marks an important turning point in the longstanding efforts of dedicated public and private sector leaders to close the digital divide. Never before have such a wide array of interests, backed by the might of the FCC, joined forces to tackle this challenge.
Connect to Compete can lead the way. But we hope this effort ignites others to join in. We simply can't afford to leave 100 million Americans behind.
Paula Ellis is the vice president for strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation.