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Connect to Compete: New Program will Bring Broadband to Millions

Connect to Compete: New Program will Bring Broadband to Millions

People in the video production world have a variety of motivations for making video. Some are striving for a unique voice or to explore a particular facet of an artistic vision. Others are in the video production business, recording events for paying customers. Others are just starting out with ambitions to become accomplished directors, videographers, and producers in the film industry. Still others are educators utilizing video in the classroom to enhance student learning and to get kids jazzed about the topic at hand. The bottom line for everyone in the video production world is to reach as large an audience as possible.

Last week the Federal Communications Commission announced a program that will help, on multiple fronts: the "Connect to Compete" initiative. Expected to hit the ground in the spring of 2012, this private and public partnership, coordinated by the FCC, will bring affordable broadband internet service to millions of households where there is none today. As described on the website, Connect to Compete is a national private and nonprofit sector partnership created to increase broadband adoption and digital literacy training in disadvantaged communities throughout the United States.

The initiative is designed to help residents improve outcomes in education, health, and employment through broadband opportunities and technology solutions. In a world of hyper-connectivity and ever-faster devices providing instant access to information and near instant recording and sharing of the events of our lives through video, its startling to realize how many people are being left out. According to the Pew Research Center, fully a third of all Americans are currently without broadband internet service. Of course, some of these households are opting out as conscientious objectors to the ubiquity of communications channels.

Clearly for many, many others, though, its a simple matter of economics. Hard choices are being made about what to put in the shopping cart and broadband Internet connectivity just isnt always at the top of the list, or on the list at all. And when these households include school-age children eligible for free school lunch programs, for instance, or the poorer elderly, it means that the lack of affordable Internet access is just one more way in which many people are being left behind.

What used to be a non-essential luxury, a fast Internet connection at home, is increasingly an integral tool for education, employment, community action, and political engagement. Connect to Compete, with the full participation and support of the cable industry, computer suppliers like Microsoft and Redemtech, and finance institutions like Morgan Stanley, will make broadband internet connections available to any household with a student currently eligible for free school lunches for about $10 per month. And why should we in the video technology world be paying attention? It goes back to whos making and sharing video and, importantly, whos watching.

We all benefit from a broader and more diverse audience for the work of videographers, short film producers, and those exploring the capabilities of the expanding field of video. Connect to Compete will help to enable more and more of us to participate in the coming years. (For another take on the importance of high-speed internet connectivity for sharing video, see Daniel Bruns' "Internet at the Speed of Light: How Faster Connections Affect the Video World.")

November 16th, 2011