Talking Tech in the Cradle of Freedom

Two-hundred twenty-seven years ago this week, the U. S. Constitution was ratified in Philadelphia, establishing our system of government and enshrining a vision of a a lot more perfect Union that still instructions us today. Part of that vision was the belief that promoting marketing communications promotes a healthy democracy. The Constitution established the Postal Office, in part to help subsidize the press and also to facilitate the distribution of info to the American people.

Today, I spent the day in Philadelphia and saw just the most recent evidence that, while the technology is promoting, our Founding Fathers’ insight into the importance of communications to our democracy’s health continues to be evergreen.

I fulfilled with local leaders who described how people in their communities required access to modern communications not only to remain informed, but also to find jobs, to further their education, and to and engage with their elected leaders.

I visited Philadelphia’s Free Library, which serves a community on-ramp to the world of information, especially for children and for individuals on fixed incomes. And, increasingly, this information is not found in books yet on the Internet. Philadelphia residents who do not have computers are visiting the Free of charge Library to get online. And area students visit the library after college to use the computers to help finish their homework assignments.

The FCC’s E-Rate program offers helped ensure that libraries and colleges across America have Internet connection. This past July, the Commission accepted the first major modernization of the E-Rate program since it was established 18 years ago. These reforms will considerably increase funding available to support Wi-Fi connectivity in libraries and colleges, will make the program more user-friendly regarding libraries, and will increase efficiencies to help make E-Rate dollars go farther.

While at the Free Library, I spoke with local library administrators, teachers, and parents to talk about how E-Rate is working for all of them, and if there are additional reforms the particular Commission should be pursuing to make it work better. I particularly enjoyed hearing from two students from The U School who spoke eloquently about the importance of having Internet access at their college and how technology had become essential to their education.

Meeting the information needs of communities requires not only universal access to Internet connection, but also having a diverse array of voices on all media platforms.

One way to ensure diversity associated with content is to encourage diversity associated with media ownership.

The Internet has created an environment where ownership associated with traditional media facilities is less important, which is one more reason why we have to make sure every American gets on-line. But when there’s few minority-owned TELEVISION stations in the country, clearly we must learn better.

Earlier in the day time, I had a separate meeting with Philadelphians who are using public access television, AM radio, and independent print outlets to engage and inform minority viewers. I also heard from Brigitte Daniel, one the only African-American cable operators in the nation, about how her company is helping to serve low-income areas in the Philadelphia region.

This spring, the Commission released a comprehensive review of our broadcast possession rules. I appreciated this opportunity to hear first-hand from various press sectors, the public, and watchdog groupings are the realities of the marketplace in 2014 and how these rules can best serve the public interest.

For all the ways we have reach rely on technology to communicate and interact with government, it was great to stay Philadelphia today for some old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings between government officials and concerned citizens. This is democracy in action, and I’m grateful to all people of Philadelphia who came out these days to make their voices heard.


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