Steven Clift points to this public notice by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Comment Sought On Moving Toward A Digital Democracy (PDF, 172 KB)
From the introduction (emphasis mine):
In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), Congress directed the Commission, in its development of a National Broadband Plan, to include “a plan for the use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing …civic participation.” While civic participation takes many forms, two processes provide the most direct and regular interaction opportunities between government and citizens: 1. the election process, and 2. public hearings and town hall meetings. The election process and voting are essential to maintaining a functioning democracy and are also the civic processes in which the most Americans participate. Public hearings and town hall meetings allow citizens to provide government representatives direct input on specific concerns and provide government representatives a direct means to gauge citizen sentiment. Accordingly, we seek tailored comment on how broadband can help to bring democratic processes—including elections, public hearings and town hall meetings—into the digital age, thereby encouraging and facilitating citizen opportunities to engage and participate in their democracy.
Item #4 is particularly interesting:
- Online Government Hearings and Online Town Hall Meetings. The proliferation of Internet-based tools and high speed technologies that enable high quality video, have enabled new venues for civic participation. Where Congressional committee hearings and city council meetings across America were limited by the size of a room and the citizen’s resources to travel to the meeting location, broadband-enabled technologies now hold the potential to eliminate these barriers for millions of Americans. We seek to better understand the power of these tools and technologies to increase civic engagement and empower citizens to engage their government.
- What are the technological models across cities, states, the nation and the globe for citizen participation in government meetings and online town halls?
- What are the barriers to the integration of these technologies?
- Do online town halls or online public hearings have a noticeable impact upon the quantity or quality of civic participation?
- Do online town halls or online public hearings bring new citizens into the process of government?
- Would Internet-based technologies make it easier for those who have to travel long distances (such as people in rural and Tribal areas) or people who have difficulty traveling (such as some elderly or disabled Americans) to engage in the process of self-government?
- What is the history and current state of play of the relevant technologies with respect to online town halls or online public hearings?
In addition to filing paper copies, comments may be submitted using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) or the Federal Government’s eRulemaking Portal and must be in by December 10 (if I read the instructions correctly).