The Internet’s Conscience: Celebrated Tech Policymaker and Advocate for More Equitable Access to Technology and the Internet
As head of the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration (NTIA) in the 1990s, Larry Irving helped shape President Bill Clinton’s telecommunications and internet policies. He is celebrated for his efforts to ensure that telecommunications regulations encouraged, rather than stifled, the emerging Internet economy and nascent digital technologies.
Known for championing more equitable access to the Internet, Irving was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2019 by the Internet Society.
Even though information technology underlies much of our nation's economic growth, too many Americans are left out of the digital economy. As a result, the digital divide -- that is, the divide between the so-called information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ -- has become one of the critical economic and civil rights issue of this decade.
Building a Trusted Future
As head of NTIA during the Internet’s early years, Irving is praised for helping to establish some of the early, foundational domestic and international policies governing today’s Internet.
Irving is also credited with coining the term “Digital Divide” during his time at NTIA, where he was responsible for publication of Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide, the first empirical research into the Digital Divide and its consequences for impacted communities. The report sparked a broader conversation, in the United States and around the world, that continues to this day.
Irving’s research led to NTIA’s Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP), which provided grants to connect libraries, hospitals, and other public entities to the Internet. Irving also played a key role in securing funding in the 1996 Telecommunications Act to connect public schools to the Internet.
As one of the nation’s most well-respected experts on Internet policy, Irving has continued his focus on the digital divide since leaving government, including bringing attention to how the divide has disadvantaged certain communities during the COVID pandemic.
You shouldn’t have to climb a tree, you shouldn’t have to sit on the curb outside a fast food restaurant, to gain access to the Internet. We have to do better by our children.