Putting the FCC National Broadband Plan into Action

In connection with the FCC’s unveiling their National Broadband Plan this morning, Tony Bradly, of PC World, interviewed Linda Criddle to get her take. The entire article can be found here Putting the FCC National Broadband Plan into Action.

To add some additional perspective, Linda has inserted the excerpts from the PC World article, and with her comments:

A statement from Linda Criddle, President of the Safe Internet Alliance, applauds the FCC broadband plan, but also urges a strong focus on consumer safety. “The FCC’s own survey found that nearly half of those Americans who remain offline do so in part because they fear “all the bad things that can happen on the Internet.” Among those who are already online, the survey found that 65 percent strongly agree there is too much pornography and offensive material on the Internet. And 57 percent strongly agree that it is too easy for their personal information to be stolen online, while 46 percent strongly agree that the Internet is too dangerous for children.”

That online safety fears are a primary factor in nearly half of those polled who do not use the internet is dismaying. There are real risks that consumers need to be aware of and have the skills to master, there are security tools that need to be in place on every internet enabled device, and there are privacy precautions that need to be taken. That said, the fear mongering of programs like “To Catch a Predator” and the sensationalizing of tragic internet crimes has created a ridiculously skewed view of risks in many consumers minds.

If we used the same ‘shock factor’ reporting demonstrated by some opportunistic reporters – and internet safety companies and advocates pushing their own agendas – to report traffic accidents it would look something like this: 40,000 people DIE on our road annually!! Millions more Injured! Stay off Roads!

As we seek to address the very real safety issues we do have, we cannot allow sensationalism and fear to keep consumers from joining the internet.

Responding to the question of whether the National Broadband Plan is needed, I responded with the following:

The Safe Internet Alliance’s Criddle agrees that the United States is in danger of leaving a portion of the population on the wrong side of the digital divide. She also stresses user awareness education for those just joining the online community. “The FCC is creating an initiative to teach digital literacy skills, but those need to encompass digital safety skills such as recognizing a phishing scam or teaching consumers to identify how information leaks, and avoid posting personal information in public access websites. These skills should also be driven home in public service announcements and public awareness campaigns.”

We will be a nation where the divide between the haves and have-nots will widen if we do not ensure that every citizen has the skills and opportunity to leverage all the great things the internet offers. But access and education must go hand in glove. We don’t hand a teen the keys to the car and thrust them onto the freeway with no skills to defend themselves or understanding of how to be responsible to others.

The internet is no different. It is an incredibly powerful tool that requires skilled use for successful experiences. We must have practical, internet safety training based on teaching the skills needed to protect consumers’ devices, understand how to identify exploits, learn how to maintain personal privacy in a connected world, and how to be a responsible digital citizen.

This information should NOT be wrapped in fear, nor moralizing. Consumers are entitled to define their own level of morality online, as they do offline, for themselves and their families within the constraints of the law.

This education needs to be specifically customized to be relevant to different consumer segments. This means that what students in the third grade learn isn’t the same as what students in high school learn. It means that safety messaging targeting parents and youth isn’t the same material as what is provided to seniors or adults who are looking to protect themselves. It means education needs to be accessible to new immigrants who lack internet skills to help bring them, and their families, into the digital society as productive members.

I am very encouraged by the inclusion of safety considerations in the National Broadband Plan, and am optimistic about the opportunities to see this focus take on a broader role as the framework matures. I urge you to get involved. The regulations being created through this process will directly impact each and every internet user.

Linda

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