Internet for everyone? Why not?

June 25, 2008 | By | 3 Replies More

Here’s a terrific article by Tim Karr of Free Press.  Why not exert some intelligent political will and make certain that blistering high-speed broadband is available to anyone who wants it at a reasonable price?   Karr’s article comes with some disturbing statistics:

Access to broadband today is held in the grip of the cable and phone cartel. This duopoly controls access for more than 98 percent of online American homes. And it’s the main reason why American pay far more for much slower speeds than what’s available in the rest of the developed world.

It has put us at a tremendous disadvantage – one that has been widely documented. But what’s alarming is new information about the demographics of access – the so-called “digital divide.” According to new analysis by Free Press (my employer), only 35 percent of U.S. homes with less than $50,000 in annual income have a high-speed Internet connection.

Not having access to broadband means that one is left out of the national conversation.   And with Web 2.0, it has become a two-way conversation for those of all of us who really care.  As Amy Goodman often says, that conversation should involved everyone in the community–she imagines it as a big kitchen table, where everyone has a fair opportunity to have a seat and have a say.   That’s not how things are turning out, and there’s no reason for not doing better, at least for those of us who believe that actually doing something, rather than waiting for the “free market” to take care of everything important.  Consider Lawrence Lessig’s comment on the free market:

“What’s bizarre about where we are in the history of building infrastructure is that this is the first time we have tried to undertake the building of fundamental social infrastructure against the background of a Neanderthal philosophy, which is that you don’t need government to do anything.

“That Neanderthal philosophy has governed for about the last eight years, and it has allowed us to slide from a leader in this field to an abysmal position. And it’s about time when people recognize that of course the private sector has a role, a central role, maybe the most important role, but it’s never enough.

Karr makes it clear that making reasonably priced broadband available will make the U.S. stronger, smarter and more efficient.   With every passing month, it is also becoming more of a moral issue.

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Category: Communication, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. I've recently been without internet (meaning safe internet, I had to use the unsecured wireless very very lame networks around me) for two weeks. One word – awful. But enough of pity whoring :D, how much does a high speed broadband connection cost? Do people not have that kind of internet connection, because it's expensive or because they are not interested?

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Back in the Clinton administration, the federal government contracted with several phone companies across the nation to install millions of miles of fiber optic cable throughout the nation. I have no idea hoe much was completed, but the existence of these communication lines is denied by the phone and cable operators who claim "limited bandwidth" as a justification for multi-tiered pricing structure. I can go out in my yard and show you where to dig to find the cable that runs in front of my house. I can also show you where the cable is buried in my parents front yard, and they live 10 miles from the nearest small town.

    Yet when I had to have a water line repaired, and the utilities people cam out to mark where the gas, sewer, water, cable, and phone lines were buried, they did not mark the fiber optic cable. While it is true that the cable is buried at least 6 feet down, I saw the crews put it in, so I know it is there.

    This was part of the National Information Infrastructure, and the phone company lingo is "dark fiber". After the beginning of the Bush administration, and the war in Iraq, many of the smaller phone companies were acquired by ATT as they began to reconstruct the monopoly that was once Ma Bell. For now it suits their purposes and profits to deny the existence of what essentially belongs to the public. My guess is that they will find a way to take ownership of the dark fiber by some fraudulent by legal means.

    We have, in place, the basic communications bandwidth, paid for by tax dollars, but it is not being used.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    High speed broadband including free anti-virus, email accounts, and such costs less than cable or satellite TV. I pay for the former, but not the latter.

    My city almost implemented universal free WiFi a couple of years ago. The project was killed by several political interests. One was the question of why we should spend several million dollars on 21<sup>st</sup> century infrastructure, when the city needs to finance a 4th $300M stadium to supplement the 3 we recently built for our 2 major sports teams. Yes, we already have 2 fully equipped major league stadia, the older of which is 12, and the younger completed last year, but is part of a still unfinished sports park. Plus a domed practice field for the football team out on the flood plain that may only seat a few thousand.

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