Broadband connectivity — or, rather, the lack thereof — has long been a problem in the United States. The pandemic has demonstrated how essential a lifeline the internet is, and how costly it can be for those who don’t have it. Work, education, social services, and myriad other activities are increasingly taking place online.
While the focus of lawmakers and regulators is often on rural broadband, getting good internet to more people is really a two-pronged problem of both access and affordability. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 21 million Americans don’t have access to quality broadband internet, though some estimates suggest the actual number is much higher.
21 million do not have access to broadband. Imagine if that were the case for electricity or clean drinking water? It would be declared a national emergency. And yet, people are sitting outside of public libraries for hours at a time trying to get school work done, apply for state/local relief aid, or connect with family in the only safe way.
It is pretty clear that the private sector is not interested in a ‘connection for everyone’. They often fall short of their current commitments while taking federal money and offering more promises without results. Frontier Gets More After Missing Deadlines or NY Settles with Version to Deliver on Contract Over and over again private companies are cutting corners, leaving out any areas that might not turn a quick profit, lobbing to keep state and local municipalities from delivering cheap high speed access themselves, it is laughable to stay that the ‘market’ is delivering high speed affordable internet access to everyone.