The U.S. finds itself on the verge of a bold digital opportunity. The growing use of Internet protocol (IP)-enabled communications networks in this country could give every American -- regardless of zip code, race, disability or income -- a chance to tap into a world where voice, video and information are available faster and in more and better ways than ever before. However, ensuring that prospect exists for all remains a major hurdle.
The Federal Communications Commission is now in the beginning stages of what will be a years-long process to improve the nation's infrastructure to better suit America's 21st century communications needs. But what will become of the tens of millions of Americans who already face hurdles in accessing existing telephone and broadband networks? How can we ensure them easy and affordable access to future networks? Will everyone be able to tap into robust, resilient, fast and affordable IP networks or have access to affordable and competitive voice and video services that take advantage of the IP network infrastructure? Eventually, all telecommunications infrastructure likely will be IP-based. In order to ensure that everyone will have access, policymakers will need to take pragmatic steps to understand the opportunities and barriers; ensure that everyone can access benefits; and ensure that our newest technologies continue to support some of our oldest values.