Follows are my opening comments for our first InternetforEveryone.org town hall meeting, which occurred on Saturday, December 6 in Los Angeles:
Thank you all for coming in out of the Los Angeles sun today. I grew up in rain-soaked Seattle so seeing this bright, warm city in December is always an inspiration for me.
We’ve invited you here today to join us in an important conversation about the Internet.
It’s a conversation that’s happening at a very exciting time in America.
2008 has been a year of political awakening. A little more than a month ago, on Election Day, millions of people who had not once set foot inside a voting booth showed up.
But it didn’t start there. For many of them, their newfound participation was forged in a new online political arena, one that – for the most part – accepts all comers, welcomes all points of view and turns away no dissent.
The Internet has only been around for a generation, but in that time it’s made possible an amazing transformation in politics – one that’s driven from the bottom up, by the people who come online every day.
What you’re doing here today is a part of this transformation. It’s a transformation in our democracy.
But we’re not here today simply to praise the Internet but to look to those people in the United States who have been left off the grid. New political involvement, economic opportunity and free speech still remain out of reach for millions of them.
We want to learn more about the challenges that they face so we can meet this 21st century problem with a 21st century solution.
Over the past year, InternetforEveryone.org has been building a national coalition of public interest groups, consumer advocates, educators, and political and business leaders.
Through our work together, we have learned one thing: When it comes to the Internet, views are as diverse as the millions of Web sites that are scattered across the network.
Some see the Internet as their opportunity to innovate, imagine and invent. Others need it to connect with family and friends living just next door, or as far away as Vietnam or Argentina.
For 17-year-old Antonio Reyes living in nearby San Fernando Valley it’s a chance to fill out college applications and fulfill his dream of becoming a pediatrician.
But one of the strongest messages that we have heard from all the members of Internet for Everyone is this:
Now, is the right time to take America’s Internet to the next level … to open the doors of Internet opportunity to everyone, and make sure that every child in this nation can get connected.
This Town Hall Meeting serves to respond to this message, to seize upon this historical moment and to advance a very important issue.
This is the first in a series of national InternetforEveryone meetings. The purpose of these meetings is two fold.
First, we need to create a framework for a national broadband plan. This framework will be built on feedback collected from you today and during other meetings happening in the coming months across the country.
It will be delivered to the new Obama administration and Congress in Washington as a people-powered guide to a better Internet.
Our second objective is not only to convey this public vision, but to promote a tangible plan of action.
This is where you come in.
We hope to inspire you today to take actions that will advance the goals of Internet for Everyone. In the room here today, and in the discussions you’re about to have, you’ll find ways to get involved and spread the word.
Before I turn over this meeting to our great facilitator Diane, I’d like to draw your attention to the four principles of Internet for Everyone.
When we began to organize this coalition we settled on these four principles as the building blocks for a better Internet in America.
They are Access, Choice, Openness and Innovation. We describe each in the discussion guides that are at your table and will explore these principles in some detail as we work through today’s agenda.
Finally, before we start, I just want to thank a few people in the room for helping make today possible.
We’re grateful for the assistance of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications.
We’re also pleased that the Communications Workers of America and that Southern California ACLU are supporters of this meeting. We’re grateful to Congresswoman Maxine Waters from the nearby 35th District who will be joining us to make some remarks later today.
Throughout the day you’ll notice the InternetforEveryone staff who have made this meeting possible. They are supported by a team of volunteers and facilitators, whom you’ll get to know as well.
Their work here has been tremendous.
And most importantly, I’d like to thank you the participants. Thanks for taking the time to participate here, fully.
For my part, I promise that your efforts today will be heard – not just by others in this room but by those newcomers in Washington, D.C., who have promised to deliver on change. Making this a reality is my commitment to you.