The Internet's public service role
Last week, Verizon and Google announced a proposal to regulate the Internet that could foster digital innovation ["Google hedges its bets on openness," front page, Aug. 10]. But it also could force many users of the information superhighway onto a dusty back road.
As chief executive of American Public Media, the largest operator of public radio stations in the country and producer of national programs such as "Marketplace," I have watched the revolution in communications technology transform the media landscape. The Internet has created extraordinary opportunities for public media to deliver the highest-quality news, information and cultural programming to every American. But if the cost of bandwidth goes up because of these types of proposals or if access to exclusive, high-speed broadband services is limited to just a few players, the ability of public media organizations to successfully deliver digital programming will be threatened.
Just as the Federal Communications Commission acted decisively to set aside public broadcasting channels in 1945, it must flex its muscle now to ensure that the Internet continues to play a public service role. The FCC and Congress should carefully and creatively explore options that allow telecom and Internet giants to succeed, while assuring that public service media continue to thrive. Not doing so could mean that the best years of public broadcasting are behind us.
Bill Kling, St. Paul, Minn.
The writer is president and chief executive of American Public Media.