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Broadband for all

Preston Gralla | July 3, 2015
There's no mere digital divide in the United States; it's a chasm. It ensures that the have-nots will always have less, and those with broadband access will have more. It's time to finally end that, and guarantee that everyone in the country, no matter how poor, gets broadband and its many benefits.

But today's conservatives have demonstrated again and again that they no longer believe in any kind of social contract. Michael Scurato, policy director of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told The New York Times, "The program has been under attack, and the F.C.C. is currently facing incredible political pressure. It wasn't always this contentious to make sure our neighbors in this country are connected to communications of the day."

There is reason to criticize the program, but not because it goes too far. It doesn't go nearly far enough. Have you looked at your broadband bill recently? Less than $10 a month doesn't pay for much, does it? The FCC defines broadband as 25 Mbps access and up. According to the Open Technology Institute's report "The Cost of Connectivity 2014," the median price of a 30 Mpbs connection in the U.S. was $54.97 in 2014, the median price of a 50 Mbps connection was $59.95, and the median price of a 100 to 150 Mbps connection was $69.99. That would leave poor households having to come up with more than $45 a month for a broadband connection under the FCC proposal, something they can't afford. And that would also leave them paying for their entire phone bill.

The government alone shouldn't subsidize broadband access. So should broadband providers. And that subsidy should be large enough so that the poorest among us will be able to afford broadband. Unless that happens, the digital chasm will remain one over which people simply can't leap.


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