Federal Communications Commission: Broadband And Civic Engagement

by Matt Rosenberg March 25th, 2010

On March 16, 2010 the Federal Communications Commission released its National Broadband Plan, detailing strategies for making high-speed Internet service more widely available in the United States and more effective in meeting the varied information needs of the public. Chapter 15 of the plan, titled “Broadband And Civic Engagement” is of particular interest for its recommendations to “create an open and transparent government; build a robust digital media ecosystem; expand civic engagement through social media; and modernize democratic processes.” Key link and excerpt follow.


Federal Communications Commission, “Broadband And Civic Engagement Chapter,” from National Broadband Plan.



Create an open and transparent government

  • The primary legal documents of the federal government should be free and accessible to the public on digital platforms.
  • Government should make its processes more transparent and conducive to participation by the American people.
  • All data and information that the government treats as public should be available and easy to locate online in a machine-readable and otherwise accessible format in a timely manner. For data that are actionable or time-sensitive in nature, the Executive Branch should provide individuals a single Web interface to manage e-mail alerts and other electronic communications from the federal government.
  • All responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by Executive Branch and independent agencies should be made available online at www.[agency].gov/foia.
  • The Executive Branch should revise its Data Quality Act guidence to encourage agencies to apply the Act more consistently and facilitate the re-publishing of government data.

Build a robust digital media ecosystem

  • Congress should consider increasing funding to public media for broadband-based distribution and content.
  • Congress should consider amending the Copyright Act to provide for copyright exemptions to public broadcasting organizations for online broadcast and distribution of public media.
  • The federal government should create and fund Video.gov to publish its digital video archival material and facilitate the creation of a federated national digital archive to house public interest digital content.
  • Congress should consider amending the Copyright Act to enable public and broadcast media to more easily contribute their archival content to the digital national archive and grant reasonable non-commercial downstream usage rights for this content to the American people.

Expand civic engagement through social media

  • The Federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council should accelerate the adoption of social media technologies that government can use to interact with the American people.
  • Increase innovation within government
  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should create an Open Platforms Initiative that uses digital platforms to engage and draw on the expertise of citizens and the private sector.
  • The Executive Branch and independent agencies should expand opportunities for Americans with expertise in technological innovation to serve in the federal government.

Modernize democratic processes

  • Federal, state and local stakeholders should work together to modernize the elections process by addressing issues such as electronic voter registration, voting records portability, common standards to facilitate data exchanges across state borders and automatic updates of voter files with the most current address information.
  • The Department of Defense (DoD) should develop a secure Internet-based pilot project that enables members of the military serving overseas to vote online.