Ford's Ubiñas on Universal High-Speed Internet Access

Luis Ubiñas of the Ford Foundation has an excellent editorial in the current Journal of Philanthropy under the headline "Why Foundations of All Kinds Should Promote Internet Access." He makes the case that promoting internet access cannot be the exclusive domain of media or technology philanthropies, but that high-speed, universal access had to be the objective of any modern foundation.  He writes:

UbinasToday the Internet is fundamental to every issue we care about. Efficient and low-cost health care, for example, will soon depend on high-speed access to online medical and diagnostic tools. Some 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies accept job applications solely online, according to one study. And digital classrooms that use high-speed Internet are already connecting students with a vast new world of ideas and information.

In brief, he argues that every foundation risks inadvertantly ignoring a substantial "information underclass" if they fail to include universal, high speed web access as a core objective. He goes on to also make a strong case on the need to fight censorship and anti-competitive behavior by ISPs. The Ford Foundation is committing $50 million to support these objectives over the next five years.

It's great to hear this level of support for expanding web access. Monday's ruling by the DC Circuit Court against the FCC put some of the big objectives outlined in the National Broadband Plan-- particularly those aimed at universal access-- into hazy legal territory. This goal is one that nearly everyone can agree on (including Google and Verizon CEOs Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg), and I couldn't agree more with Ubiñas that universal, high-speed internet access needs to be a priority for everyone seeking a better America.