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A Statement on Net Neutrality

Democrats and Republicans are getting an earful as they go home to face angry constituents frustrated with the partisan games and gridlock in Washington, DC. We are deeply disappointed that the Open Internet Act of 2010 was yet another casualty in this partisan war. Chairman Waxman and Boucher worked diligently on this legislation to ensure an open Internet and a decisive resolution to the debate around net neutrality. He should be congratulated, and this should be among the first pieces of legislation that is taken up when Congress returns after the November election.

Chairman Waxman and Boucher are protecting consumers by ensuring that there is no blocking of legal content, and that consumers are free to use any application on the Internet. The Open Internet Act of 2010 will enshrine net neutrality into law. As soon as we can put this debate behind us, we will be free to move forward to critical task of creating the 21st century infrastructure that will benefit all Americans.

While we've been arguing about which definition of net neutrality should prevail, America has slipped to 26th in the world in Internet speeds. Countries that are more rural like Canada, Romania or Finland and countries that are more densely populated like South Korea all have faster connections to the home, than we do in America. This relative decline in America's standing in the world is swamped by the arguments over standards of net neutrality.

A digital divide persists in this country-- more than 100 million Americans lack a home broadband connection and in particularly alarming news, some communities saw a decline in adoption rates. The percentage of adults with broadband access in rural areas was 50 percent while in urban or suburban homes access was a full 20 percent higher. While only 45 percent of those households earning less than $30,000 have broadband, 87 percent of those with incomes over $75,000 had broadband at home. Between 2009 and 2010 the percentage of Hispanic/Latinos households with broadband actually declined 2 percent and adoption in African American homes lags 11 percent behind that of their white counterparts. A debate on how to close this digital divide is pushed to the side by the raging debate on net neutrality. Because broadband is such an integral part of competing in the global economy, it is imperative that broadband is both affordable and accessible so we can all take advantage of the entrepreneurial, economic and educational benefits that broadband can provide.

It's time to move on. Recognizing the importance of access to high-speed broadband, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a blueprint to spur broadband deployment and adoption with the input from policy makers, industry leaders and thousands of hard working Americans. This National Broadband Plan offers ambitious goals for building and upgrading our high-speed networks, providing affordable access and digital skills to every American and ensuring broadband connectivity at community anchor institutions like schools, libraries and hospitals and it provides concrete steps to get there.

We want to focus our efforts on getting 1 gigabyte of capacity out to anchor institutions in every community across America. This is an investment that will get Americans back to work in our communities right now, building the infrastructure for the 21st century.

According to FCC estimates, implementing the National Broadband plan to create a world class network will cost $350 billion. The key question progressives need to be discussing is how to make a world class Internet and all of the benefits it provides accessible to all Americans. If we don't focus our energy on developing and implementing our plan, our economy and the hard working men and women who drive it will be stuck in neutral for decades.