On Monday, February 15th, groups across the country, including Main Street Project, the organization I work for, participated in a National Day of Action in support of broadband access and Net Neutrality. MSP, a member of the Media Action Grassroots Network, hosted a community forum titled, "Get Up to Speed with High Speed," in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, was the special guest speaker, highlighting the importance of the Internet to civic participation. He said:
We are beginning to see the future unfold where the issues of digital access need to be resolved. It's democracy's job to make every voice heard, and it starts with demands for broadband access.
The Minneapolis gathering was organized by the Minnesota Digital Justice Coalition, four MAG-Net organizations based in the state that work to shape media policy on the local level. The four groups include Main Street Project, Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing, People Escaping Poverty Project and Twin Cities Community Voicemail. The event attracted community folks on both sides of the digital divide, from bloggers with a captive readership to low-income folks who struggle daily to get access.
Many of the people present at the event were from organizations that have already signed MAG-Net's pledge to be a Digital Champion. For me personally, it's been an enlightening experience to see how groups from all disciplines and issue areas have connected with the issue of universal broadband and Net Neutrality. At face value, there doesn't seem to be much of a connection, but as the conversations dive deeper into the role of the Internet in people's daily lives, it's clear that everyone has something at stake. In all, Minnesota has gathered over 30 organizational pledges, and in our final week of action beginning today, we're pushing for more organizations to sign on.
The day of action and all of our activities around this campaign have centered around the idea that people have an important and unique perspective to share about the Internet. The stories that have been collected and are being shared with our elected officials are challenging the idea that the Internet is a luxury. When one's housing, education, job, communication and artistic expression are being facilitated through the open Internet, it's clear it's become a public necessity.