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Depressed by Dial-up, MN Groups Call for Broadband Action

February 15, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - Depressed by dial-up, hundreds of organizations across the country have declared today a day of action, to call attention to the need for affordable, high-speed access to an open Internet in communities of all sizes. At a forum in Minneapolis, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will speak about the importance of the Internet to civic participation.

Amalia Deloney, coordinator for the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-net), says many Minnesota communities have outgrown their old dial-up modems, but don't yet have affordable broadband options.

"There's people in communities of color, low-income communities, rural areas, struggling suburban areas, that understand the importance of Internet; that it's no longer a luxury, it's a necessity."

Deloney says the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could help bridge the digital divide between communities if its new National Broadband Plan extends the existing Universal Service Fund rules and resources to broadband and mobile devices. The plan will be presented to Congress next month. Local groups in Minnesota are asking regulators and lawmakers to take steps to increase broadband access and ensure network neutrality.

Deloney says an open Internet with guaranteed network neutrality is essential to ensure that every idea has a chance to be communicated.

"You know, that's important, whether it's about small business development; whether it's artists being able to exchange music online; whether it's immigrant communities who need to be able to access Skype to have conversations with communities back in their countries of origin."

Making "net neutrality" the rule would prevent Internet providers from blocking or slowing down certain kinds of online content in favor of others. Providers argue that they should have the power to operate their networks however they see fit, but the FCC claims it has broad jurisdiction over many forms of interstate communication, including the Internet.

More information is at pitch.pe/44969. The "Community Forum on Importance of the Internet" is at Brian Coyle Center, 420 15th Ave. S, Minneapolis, Monday, Feb. 15, 1-2 p.m.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN