Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
3/17/2010 3:57 PM
The FCC has proposed that either free or low-cost broadband be provided to the entire nation. The projected cost, depending on how you assemble the numbers, is from $5 billion to $15 billion.
I’m curious whether Broadcast Engineering readers think the idea of providing free or low-cost Internet is a good idea. Is Internet access a fundamental human “right?"
The BBC surveyed adults from across the globe on their feelings about Internet access. Nearly four of five, 80 percent, said that access to the Internet is a “fundamental right.”
In the BBC study, when measured across 26 countries, 79 percent of survey respondents said that Internet access was "the fundamental right of all people." Looking at only those who already use the Internet, the number who saw broadband access a “right” increased to 87 percent. Ninety percent of the respondents said that the Internet was a good place to learn, and almost 80 percent said the Internet brought them greater freedom.
I don’t believe Americans view the issue the same way. Scanning news sites, blogs and their respective comments sections indicates to me a much smaller number of Americans think of Internet access as a “right.” Many commenters say things like, "the Internet is a goods and service." Others counterclaim the FCC needs to built out free Internet, much like this nation did with roads and electricity.
The FCC claims that there are 93 million Americans without access to home broadband. The solution, says the FCC, is to create a $4.6 billion Connect America fund to support the deployment and adoption of high-speed Internet service in low-income and rural areas. That’s in addition to asking Congress to approve a one-time, $9 billion appropriation to fund broadband. Don’t forget there are tens of billions in other expenses being planned by the FCC, so this may really be but the tip of the iceberg in terms of costs.
However, the overall question for this post remains: Is broadband Internet access a “right,” and should it be provided free or at low cost? If your answer is yes, tell us how would you pay for it.