Even before the site went live, the newspaper industry posed one argument against online public notices that was difficult to answer: What about all the people in the country who don’t have Internet access?
It’s pretty troubling to imagine that a database like NoticeandComment.com, specifically designed to draw people in and increase participation, would wind up cutting anyone out. Knowing that the movement to put local notices online is inevitable, it seemed natural to point this natural digital shift as a defense. It seemed a little incomplete, though, until combing the NoticeandComment database itself one day led to this public notice.
If you haven’t heard of the Connect America Fund, then this probably doesn’t look like much. But like many public notices, this one has a couple key features – it’s a pretty boring and dizzying read, and it’s going to have a massive impact. If you doubt the latter, here’s what the FCC has to say on their website:
“Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society – for all Americans.”
This is the basic motivation behind the FCC’s initiative to extend high-speed access to the estimated 18 million Americans currently living in rural areas without it.
The comment period just closed on Monday.
This is part of a wider initiative through the Recovery Act to expand interconnectivity and start moving the country toward a brighter digital future – one town at a time. Suddenly the argument seems a lot less relevant, especially because the program is also funding the development of public computer centers in certain communities as well.
The debate is over. Once again, technology and connectivity win the battle for social progress.
“High-speed Internet plays a key role as regions compete to attract employers and encourage participation in today’s global economy. Many states stepped up efforts in the past year and set ambitious goals to wire more areas — particularly in rural localities — so they don’t fall behind,” wrote Mike Maciag in a Governing article almost a year ago.
So now that the entire country is being patched together by broadband, the expansion of availability begs for a well of information to tap. Enter NoticeandComment, a database capable of providing that well for the thousands of local governments yet to go online. In the context of a mass effort to bring the country online, the site will be a crucial part of the process to take government-to-citizen communication to the next level.
By: Daniel A. Shyti Jr.
Managing Editor, N&C, Inc.