Monday, July 28, 2008

Leaders of Four Metro Atlanta Municipalities Outline Broadband Goals at Alliance for Digital Equality's Digital Empowerment Summit 2008

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The leaders of four metro Atlanta municipalities gave highlights of their broadband initiatives at the first ever Digital Empowerment Summit, hosted by The Alliance for Digital Equality (ADE). The well attended event, moderated by Rodney Ellis, State Senator of Texas and ADE Board Member and Maria Saporta, Columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, featured business and community leaders and elected officials Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Fulton County Commissioner Chairman John Eaves, Jr., Clayton County Commissioner Chairman Eldrin Bell and Vernon Jones, CEO of Dekalb County Government.

More than 200 people attended the Summit held at the Georgia Tech Conference Center. A greater number of global viewers participated via a webcast through live video streaming. Highlights of the Summit can be viewed by tuning in at

The Digital Empowerment Summit included a national panel of experts who examined public policy guidelines for maintaining the momentum toward a national goal of ensuring the affordability of broadband service for every American. The 16-member panel discussed the potential socio-economic impact of affordable broadband deployment in the areas of job creation, public health, public safety, urban development, civic responsibility and educational advancement.

The Summit also served to introduce members of a newly formed Atlanta Digital Empowerment Council (DEC), part of The Alliance's nationwide initiative which advocates for increased broadband access, especially in urban and underserved communities. The Atlanta DEC is charged with studying the impact of broadband access on African-American and Hispanic communities throughout metropolitan Atlanta and will be one of many nationwide efforts by The ADE to bring together community leaders who will provide insight and direction to improve digital empowerment opportunities for all citizens. Previously, The ADE has launched Councils in Charleston, SC, Houston, Detroit and Miami.

"For those individuals with access to broadband technologies, unprecedented opportunity is available. It is my greatest fear that if broadband becomes unaffordable for the average working class family, the last ones on will be the first ones off," said Julius H. Hollis, Chairman of The Alliance for Digital Equality. "The Alliance is becoming the voice of underserved communities to ensure that broadband remains affordable."

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin commented, "In the City of Atlanta, there is a lot of discussion about how we can come into this new era, to ensure that broadband access is available to school children and everyone in public places. If we can invest in water, streets, library buildings and new bridges, the city should have the financial where-with-all to invest in broadband infrastructure."

"The Internet is a critical source of communication and if all people don't have access to the Internet, we're going to be left behind," stated CEO of Dekalb County Government, Vernon Jones. "We need access to information."

"We no longer need library buildings, we need a bookless library, meaning a library without walls," said Chairman of the Clayton County Commission, Eldrin Bell. "Clayton County has created and founded a library foundation online where students can access information and get help from teachers online to complete their homework assignments."

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, Jr. stated, "When elected officials make decisions in terms of policies, the use of emails from constituents is a major factor in how loud their voices are. Those who don't have access to technology don't have an equal voice."

"The potential of broadband Internet can only be realized if policy solutions create ways for Internet networks to be managed appropriately," said Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, Summit Moderator and ADE Board Member. "For communities and individuals, broadband access can open the door of opportunity, but we must ensure that broadband policies do not restrict implementation of innovative approaches and do not place a heavier burden on individual consumers."

As part of its mission of "empowering communities across the digital divide," The Alliance will continue to bring together elected officials, consumers and the business community to educate minority communities about the importance, as well as, benefits of broadband usage. This national effort will continue in cities across the country to ensure that all Americans - regardless of their race, ethnicity or income - are empowered to join the digital revolution.

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