Aspen Institute to Advance Recommendations of the Knight Commission

Press Release

March 18, 2010


Aspen Institute Earns New Funding to Advance Recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy

FCC’s National Broadband Plan Cites Influential Work of the Knight Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MARCH 18, 2010) – The Aspen Institute will advance the recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, including universal broadband access, thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Institute, awarded a two-year, $800,000 grant, will commission policy papers and convene follow-up activities to move many of the Knight Commission’s 15 recommendations to actionable steps.

The Aspen Institute and Knight Foundation partnered to establish the Knight Commission. Released last October, the commission’s report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, spurred the Federal Communications Commission to launch an initiative aimed at achieving the report’s goals.

“This grant helps move to the question of exactly how public policy can bring about more informed, engaged communities,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation and a member of the Knight Commission. “Broadband access for all is essential to meeting the information needs of communities in a democracy. Without it, we’ll end up with a new category of second-class citizens. With it, everyone will be able to harness the social and economic opportunities of the digital age.”

The Aspen Institute’s new project comes in the wake of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, which echoes the findings and goals of the Knight Commission report. The FCC’s plan lays out a broad vision for the broadband ecosystem in the United States, and a roadmap for achieving universal broadband service.

“The Aspen Institute will get to the facts and options that will drive a more meaningful national policy discussion,” said Eric Newton, vice president of Knight Foundation’s journalism program.

The policy papers will focus on local journalism, public media, government transparency and information portals, digital and media literacy, open networks, civic engagement, community self-assessment and universal broadband.

“With the release of the National Broadband Plan, the national conversation on the information needs of Americans in the 21st Century takes a giant step forward. It is gratifying to see that the Knight Commission’s efforts to foster a nationwide dialogue have had such a significant impact already,” said Charles M. Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, the institutional home of the Knight Commission.

In its report, the Knight Commission recommended that the nation “set ambitious standards for nationwide broadband availability and adopt public policies encouraging consumer demand for broadband services.” (Recommendation #8). The FCC’s goal of 100MB service to 100 million households fits the spirit of that recommendation.  And its call for universal broadband service in America is consonant with the thrust of the Knight Commission Report.

The FCC’s plan also cites other aspects of the Knight Commission’s vision for improving the information health and opportunities of the American people. The plan references the Knight Commission report’s Recommendation #4, which calls for government transparency through standardized digital platforms.

Additionally, the plan follows up on the Knight Commission’s Recommendation #2, which calls for increasing support for public service media aimed at meeting community information needs. Citing Informing Communities, the broadband plan states that “public media plays a vital and unique role in our democracy, informing individuals and leading our public conversation, as well as building cohesion and participation in our communities.”