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BROADBAND FOR ALL

A VITAL ECONOMIC GOAL

A POLITICAL AND MORAL RIGHT

 

The Internet is the greatest communication revolution in history. Should it only be for the rich?

We say no.

Would America have been a major success if we only built toll roads, instead of super highways for all? Absolutely not.   Why did the United States of America become a major world super power in the 20th century? Was it luck? No. It was the massive mobilization of government forces that connected this country via technology. The groundwork was set in the 19th century with the transcontinental railroad. A journey that once took weeks was cut down to just a few days. The development of interstate highways and airports in the 20th century connected us even further; reducing day long trips to mere hours.   Telecommunications and electricity were also brought forward by government mandates.

These were investments for all Americans.   Today, the Internet is even more important than railroads and airports were in the past.   The Internet is absolutely essential to the education of our citizens. It is the transcontinental railroad of the 21st century, and we as a nation are failing to get aboard the train.

The state of today's American Internet is nothing short of a disaster and a disgrace.   Due to a total failure of national leadership, whole sections of the nation cannot even get broadband.   The wiring of America has been done on the basis of wealth and profit.  In short, poor and rural areas have been left out.   Among low income households (households with an income of $50,000 or less), only 35% have access to the Internet. Studies on Broadband and Poverty.

In 1995, even Newt Gingrich proposed getting laptop PCs for every poor child.   We need to do what we can to equip all Americans with the basic tools of the economic future, not just the rich.

Connecting the best and brightest minds to one another at a minimal cost can help generate the creativity that keeps this country going. How can we expect to stay competitive in the world game when not all Americans are even plugged in to play? Furthermore, American average Internet speeds lag behind countries like South Korea, Japan and Singapore. So the time for action is now. This cannot wait. We've already fallen behind our competitors in Asia and Europe.

What is needed here is leadership, funding and a major commitment to action. We have outlined this below.

I. REVIEW WHAT IS NEEDED

100 for 100. We should set a national goal of at least 100 MB per second for 100% of all Americans.   We'll leave the details to the experts.  This is a goal that can be done.  Broadly speaking, what is needed is faster speeds and broader access.

II. PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP

The adoption of a National Broadband plan won't happen by accident.   We need strong leadership and funding from the government. The President should set up a National Broadband council of the top companies in the industry, along with experts and citizen groups that can offer the best ideas. A "Broadband Summit"  should be held at the White House to get the views of all relevant parties, particularly the cable TV and cell phone companies.  Decisions need to be made about the means to reach all communities. 

III. AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE

We don't pretend to know the cost picture for all areas between cellular broadband and land based fiber optics.  We do know that the latter can be very expensive. 

We feel a national budget of $50 billion or more would be a bargain.  However, it may be necessary to start with a smaller sum to perfect the details of the program.  This money could pay for tax incentives to serve difficult areas just as there are tax incentives for low income housing.

IV. SUBSIDIES FOR THE POOR

As mentioned above, this cannot work if the Internet is only for the rich. We need to develop a major commitment to broadband for all, including the poor. This could be achieved by using the funding mentioned above for subsidies and tax incentives to internet providers who offer affordable rates to the poor. We should also look at the cost of providing affordable Internet access devices (such as tablets and phones). After all, people can't get on the Internet without a platform.

Today the FCC subsidizes $10 of either broadband or phone service per month for qualified customers. This is a plan that was developed in the 80's and is stuck in the 80's. $10 Is nothing considering the cost of today's communications technology. So much more needs to be done.

V. BROADENING THE RANGE OF THE INTERNET

So far we have discussed bringing the internet to the poor. Yet there are also many rich people in America who can't get the Internet either, if they live in the wrong area. Many people in rural areas are shut out completely. This can be a matter of life and death, especially considering that several landline phone companies are shutting down - leaving rural folks and the elderly without anyway to reach help in case of an emergency. It's also difficult for people in these areas to sign up for health care if they can't call anyone or log onto the Internet. So broadening the scope of the Internet would be a vital strategy in connecting all Americans with fundamental rights - such as the right to education and health care.

How to do this? Once again, we don't pretend to know all the technicalities of the situation. Some say this can be done with satellites. The inventor Elon Musk claims that he can provide Internet access to every corner of the planet with the use of 4,000 satellites. Is this true? We don't know. But the point is that this is an area that deserves more research, funding, leadership and assistance from the major communications companies.

CONCLUSION

If ever there was a need for "education improvement", this is it.  It gives poor and rural communities access to the world. It plugs America into the 21st century.

This is the right thing to do.  It's good for the economy, and it's a political winner.


WHY INTERNET FOR ALL IS SUCH A VITAL GOAL

JOBS AND FINANCIAL POWER

Jobs that depend upon broadband availability are projected to increase 25% or more by 2018. According to the Internet Innovation Alliance, a $10 billion investment in broadband would produce nearly 500,000 new jobs. Nearly 18% of new jobs in North Carolina alone have been created as a direct result of broadband Internet access. Not to mention that more than 62% of the American workforce now relies on the Internet to do their jobs. (Internet Innovation Alliance).

A key problem in America is that the skill-sets of its workers do not match the demands of growing industries. Computer and tech companies are having a particularly difficult time in finding employees with the right skill sets. According to a recent survey, 71% of the tech and computer companies surveyed stated that they had unfilled positions for technology or math focused jobs. (Entrepreneur, 1-29-15). Hooking up more Americans to the Internet would be a helpful step in correcting the technology gap in our current job market.

There is no question that an investment in broadband would be an investment in the American economy. In the 19th century, it was our ability to get Americans wired into the electrical grid that kept the lights on and kept factories going. We must accomplish the same goal with plugging our businesses into the World Wide Web.

SMALL BUSINESSES

Internet connectivity is crucial for many small businesses trying to take off the ground. Small businesses accounted for the majority of the 1.2 million jobs generated in America during the last 10-15 years. Being able to telework and reach a broad customer base via the Internet is a crucial tool for developing businesses.

FAMILY VALUES

The Internet can also provide opportunities for parents who struggle to find adequate day care for their children. Child-care is said to devour at least 30 percent of minimum-wage worker's earnings in every state, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. Not to mention that day care even has high costs for affluent parents. The opportunity to telecommute could offer desperate parents the chance to save on day care costs while also giving them a chance to ensure the safety and security of their children. Many parents do not have the opportunity to take off work when their children are sick. So the ability to telecommute would be an economic asset for working families, along with a security and health benefit for children.

POVERTY

Among low income households (households with an income of $50,000 or less), only 35% have access to the Internet. Yet the Internet is a key tool in building bridges for those without the means to climb up the economic ladder. Many poor people live in areas that lack jobs, and many don't have adequate transportation in order to commute to a better job. The Internet can empower low income Americans by allowing them to offer their skills to the workforce regardless of their geographic location. Studies on Broadband and Poverty

A MATTER OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY

Health care is currently an over-bloated industry where Americans pay more and get less. Health-care is expensive because there are so many overhead costs. Electronic health records would improve efficiency and lower costs. Not to mention that in many rural clinics, broadband access is unaffordable. A National Broadband strategy would allow these rural clinics to access patient records with expediency and lower costs. This is essential in emergencies where a patient may only have seconds to live. Accessing medical records from an online file in seconds will be a life saving event, versus wasting several minutes (or even hours) faxing the same information.

In an increasingly wired world, many of the traditional methods of communication (such as land-line phones) are going out of business. As a result, there are many people (particularly older people in rural areas) that have no way to reach the rest of the world if they have an emergency. Internet access for these people could be a matter of life and death.

AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENERGY CONCERN

The ability for businesses to telecommute and network via the Internet cuts down on traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of paperwork necessary to run a business is also diminished by the ability to view information online. Overall, a National Broadband strategy would help the environment by reducing the need for transportation and office space. It is also possible to modernize the electric grid with broadband, making it more reliable and less prone to outages.


AN EDUCATIONAL RIGHT

While Internet access for all would be a boon for many aspects of American society, its most vital role yet is in the education of our citizens. In the 16th century, Gutenberg's printing press revolutionized history. Books and newspapers were mass produced. Entire swaths of the population that were once illiterate learned how to read. It might even be said that the printing press brought Europe out of the Middle Ages.

Today the Internet is the modern printing press, only more revolutionary. Knowledge that was once only available in an expensive textbook or college lecture is now online for free. Countless people, whether rich or poor, can access entire libraries of knowledge, just at the click of a button.

A National Broadband plan is even more vital yet given the sad state of the current American education system.

Some say that a lack of funding is the issue with America's education system. Yet as a percent of GNP, America spends more on education than most other modern states. Historically, education spending is at an all-time high. Our education system is over-bloated and inefficient. High School graduation rates have barely budged since the 90's. In 1990, the average graduation rate was 73.7 %. By 2005 there was a modest increase to 74.7%, despite enormous increases in spending. Mindlessly throwing money at the problem is not working.

We need an education system oriented to the 21st century - and 21st century jobs.  We must have universal access to high speed broadband to make this work.  In particular, we need to end the fairy tale that going to college is an automatic ticket to wealth. This fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, given that there is an entire generation of Americans with chronic levels of debt. Consumers now owe more on their student loans than their credit cards. Yet half of these graduates can't even find a job (The Atlantic). This is not to mention that college debt is exempt from bankruptcy.

One hundred thousand dollars worth of debt for limited results is not a real education plan. A National Broadband plan would allow many prospective students to plug into a free, online university (called the 'Internet'). You never know where the next Albert Einstein or Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to come from. Are we going to risk shutting that person out because they are poor, because their neighborhood can't get a good broadband signal? That's really quite sad.

BRINGING THE CLASSROOM INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

Imagine if you could upgrade the classroom model from one teacher and thirty students, to one student with one teacher. This would be revolutionary. This is possible.

An online educational curriculum can provide more customized learning options, as well as one on one access to information. In addition, it can expand education beyond the physical limitations of the classroom. This is also essential for instilling children and adults with the specific skill set needed for the workplace. Many Americans are falling behind the global workforce. The United States is developing less engineers, scientists and technicians than our economic competitors in Asia.

Many schools still waste time teaching children outdated and unnecessary skills that they will never use in the workforce. In the classroom, teachers often hear the bemoaned phrase "when am I ever going to use this" from their students. But the students are right, they shouldn't have their time (or parent's tax payer money) wasted on something they will never use in their adult life. Instead, digital skills and online literacy need to be incorporated into the curriculum at a young age.

Broadband connectivity would also be a helpful tool in teaching children in poor neighborhoods. Universal Broadband Access at school is essential for children who lack books, computers and other basic educational resources at home. It would be a means to allow those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder to reach new heights of knowledge and success.


INCREASING ACCESS TO DIGITAL CONTENT

The federal government should also increase the legal accessibility to online digital data with standards established by the U.S. Department of Education. Part of this involves congress taking action to encourage copyright holders to grant educational digital rights of use. The current crackdown of available online content is detrimental to the learning process on both a national and global level. If we are to raise an educated nation of people, we need to stop this online copyright war. An online collaboration of the world's most brilliant minds will be critical to solving the pressing issues of our time. Much of this content can act as a free online library - making much of the expenses of an over inflated educational system unnecessary.


PLANS FOR GLOBAL INTERNET ACCESS

FACEBOOK'S INTERNET FOR ALL

Two thirds of the world's population still does not have internet access. Internet access means a connection to educational opportunities normally denied to those with few resources. Internet.org is an interesting initiative led by Facebook to bring technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities together to connect those who go without internet. The problem is that many of the devices that allow people to go online are too expensive, service plans are too expensive, mobile networks are few and far between, much of the internet content isn't in the local language, power sources are limited and many networks can't support a large amount of data. So it is the goal of Internet.org to remove these obstacles.

Internet.org

GOOGLE'S PROJECT LOON

Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters. Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed. Loon balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel. Project Loon began in June 2013 with an experimental pilot in New Zealand, where a small group of Project Loon pioneers tested Loon technology, and now tests are being conducted in other places like California and Brazil.

Project Loon

INVENTOR ELON MUSK UNLEASHES PLAN FOR GLOBAL INTERNET ACCESS

The inventor Elon Musk believes that he can provide internet access to every corner of the planet with the use of 4,000 satellites. He even claims that these satellites will be capable of providing internet access to a tent in the Sahara Desert, if need be. He says that these satellites are smaller and cheaper than those of competitors. Now he's seeking government permission to begin testing.

Musk-have WiFi: Internet everywhere if Elon Musk’s 4,000-satellite idea gets US green light (RT, 9-15-15)


U.S. NATIONAL BROADBAND FOR ALL PLAN

FCC Plans to Improve Internet Access in the United States

National Broadband Plan  FCC 2010    National Broadband Plan (Wikipedia)

FCC'S Plan to Modernize Lifeline For Low Income Households (PDF)

FCC looks to subsidize low-income Americans' Internet access (The Hill, 5-28-15)

FCC Aims to Subsidize Internet Service for the Poor (National Journal, 3-11-15)

 

Lobby for Cable and Phone Companies

Broadband For America

 

Non-Profits

Fiber to the Home (A non-profit organization dedicated to expanding all fiber networks)

Minority Media And Telecom Council: Promoting Diversity in Media, Telecom and Broadband

Let's Act Now to Close the Digital Divide

Universal Affordable Broadband for All Americans


EUROPE'S DIGITAL AGENDA

Digital Agenda for Europe

Fast broadband for all by 2020 pledged by David Cameron (BBC, 11-7-15)

Broadband For All in the EU by 2020 (Ars Technica, 3-26-13)


NEWS STORIES

Broadband for All

Broadband Data Caps Pressure ‘Cord Cutters’ (The Wall Street Journal, 4-21-16)

Undersea Cables That Power the Internet (Facebook, 9-14-15)

Do We Need a New National Broadband Plan? (Ars Technica, 7-27-12)

Free Federal Wireless Broadband For All Americans? Fuggedaboutit! (Time: Business and Money, 2-6-13)

Internet for the Poor

Poor students often lack a home Internet connection. Is this FCC program a solution? (Hechinger Report, 6-18-15)

Studies on Broadband and Poverty

Internet Speeds

Top 10 Internet Speeds Per City (Aljazeera, 5-29-15)

The FCC may finally admit that 4Mbps doesn’t count as ‘broadband’ anymore (Yahoo News, 5-31-14)

Government Report: No High Speed Broadband Competition: Blame AT&T, Verizon & CenturyLink's Two Decades of Broken Promises. (Huffington Post, 12-27-14)

Corporate Ties Bind U.S To Slow Internet (Financial Times, 2-24-13)


BOOKS

"A Captive Audience"

DISCLAIMER: We do not necessarily agree or disagree with Crawford's point of view, we just think it is a viewpoint in the broadband debate that needs to be covered.

She claims that Telecom monopolies are affecting our ability to stay economically and technologically competitive with countries such as Japan and South Korea.