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FCC's Clyburn: Broadband Clearly a Necessity

FCC Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn responded, though not explicitly, to the suggestion by her fellow commissioner, Republican Michael O'Rielly, that broadband access was not a necessity.

Clyburn's response came in a speech July 8 to a National Action Network policy conference.

In his own June 25 speech to the Internet Innovation Alliance, O'Rielly said regulators should not view Internet access as a necessity or a human right.

Clyburn made it clear she was one regulator who was going to treat it as just that, which is why she is pushing for updating the FCC's lifeline program subsidy for broadband to low income households.

Clyburn said access to broadband was an issue not just of connecting homes, but of equality and justice. "Access to the Internet today is essential and never allow anyone to try and convince you otherwise."

In talking about closing the digital divide, she said it would not be easy "for there are those who publicly proclaim that Internet access is 'not a necessity'!"

"Not a necessity… during a time when the majority of Fortune 500 companies post new job listings strictly on websites?"

"And where if you are fortunate enough to secure a position, your new boss expects you to have an e-mail address," she said. "Not a necessity… where, in a growing number of states, those who are income-eligible can only apply for benefits or aid online? Not a necessity… when most colleges and universities post and accept student admissions electronically? Not a necessity… as the evidence grows daily, on how technology is bridging long-standing gaps when it comes to the delivery, quality of service, and cost efficiencies for access to health care and wellness?"

"Not a necessity?" she asked again. "Well I say they are wrong, and I trust you agree."