Klaas Wierenga could do without Big Brother peeking over his shoulder while surfing the Internet.
A 2019 inductee into the Internet Hall of Fame, Wierenga developed eduroam, a free, secure, international wi-fi roaming service for academic and research communities that is available in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Citing the Edward Snowden case, Wierenga said in a recent interview that one of his greatest concerns about the future of the Internet is how frequently governments monitor individuals’ web activity.
“The extent to which governments spy on their own and other citizens is staggering. That is the single most thing that worries me about the Internet,” Wierenga said. “We all as an Internet community should work very hard to make sure those governments are unable to prevent the Internet from being what it is, has been, and continues to be: a place where, if you have a good idea, you can make it happen.”
To Tim Berners-Lee, the ongoing global pandemic has further highlighted the need for ordinary citizens to push towards ending the digital divide.
Part of the Internet Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, Berners-Lee is the founder of the World Wide Web and wrote the first web client and server.
In a column recently published by The Guardian, Berners-Lee reiterated his belief that his creation is meant for everyone’s use and that public investment is critical to facilitate that goal.
He writes: “As Covid-19 forces huge change to our lives, we have an opportunity for big, bold action that recognizes that, as with electricity in the last century and postal services before that, the web is an essential utility that governments and business should combine to deliver as a basic right."
Despite Larry Irving’s dogged efforts to ensure Internet access for minorities and the impoverished, digital equity remains an uphill battle.
“Four-and-a-half billion people are connected to the Internet, and most Americans are connected,” Irving says. “… but one out of three New Yorkers don’t have broadband. So, there are more people in New York City without broadband than there are people in Houston.”
“Seventy percent of teachers give homework that requires broadband,” he added. “And five million students in this great nation of ours go home every night to a home without broadband.”
Irving warns that the inequities will only get worse under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) current policies, which only focus on connecting rural areas.
“How can a nation as rich as ours have these continued divides? And with 5G, we will make the divide worse,” he said.
“Fed policy has limited the ability of states, localities and cities and communities to require providers of 5G to deploy it equitably. It is important that we focus on rural...
When Larry Irving was asked to join the Clinton Administration’s Internet policy team, he’d never been on the network – or even used email.
But as a minority born in New York City’s housing projects whose first job on Capitol Hill was with the late Rep. Mickey Leland, a tireless champion for the underprivileged, it didn’t take him long to see both the benefits and the dangers the Internet posed to society – particularly as it related to the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’
Internet pioneers had also identified the potential access problems, which early technologists had dubbed the ‘Digital Divide.’ But it was Irving’s laser focus on both measuring and closing that gap that have made his name almost synonymous with the term.
It’s a mission he has remained committed to over the past two decades, and one that earned him a spot as the first African American in the Internet Hall of Fame.
“Larry was among the first to note that ‘the divide between those with access to new technologies and those without is now one of America's leading economic and civil rights issues,” Chris Lewis, president...
With COVID-19 forcing millions of families to turn to distance learning, an Internet Hall of Fame inductee’s long-time concerns about the digital divide are being thrust into the spotlight.
A 2019 inductee into the Internet Hall of Fame, Larry Irving served for seven years as administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, becoming one of the main architects of telecommunications policy in the Clinton White House.
Along with pushing developments to improve Internet access, his administration kept records of user demographics to document the early days of the digital divide – a phrase he coined in the 1990s.
Despite Irving voicing his concerns almost 30 years ago, that persistent digital divide has left families and students unprepared to deal with distance learning during a global pandemic.
In a recent survey of 5,000 teachers across the country, 55 percent said less than half of their students were attending online classes necessitated by COVID-19, with many unable to do so thanks to limited or non-existent Internet access at home.
Although the Lifeline program was expanded during the Obama administration to include smart phones, recent proposals to expand its provider network or provide additional funding to cover broadband discounts to libraries and public schools have gotten a chilly reception. That in turn leaves families...