War for the Web
11 11.11

Access for all

The FCC is pushing an agenda that calls for universal broadband access. To do this, they’ve partnered with several large Internet Service Providers in the United States to offer low cost Internet access to families with children on the national lunch program at school. These families will be eligible for heavily subsidized $150 computers powered by Microsoft, financing from Morgan Stanley to buy them, and $10/month broadband access.

The goal here is to illustrate the relevance of the Internet to low income households. Many in poverty are not inclined to seek access to the Internet because they don’t feel it is important. But with more and more job postings, educational opportunities, and other resources moving onto the Internet, it is more important than ever that people have access, particularly those who fall below the poverty line. Denying them access, or even maintaining the status quo has the potential to create a permanent underclass with no access to knowledge.

But this method will have serious consequences for industry, and a lot of concessions were made to ISPs to get them involved in the process and willing to offer low cost broadband. Comcast, for example, was allowed to acquire NBC Universal. Is the vertical integration this allows, and the monopoly of content by service providers that may follow, worth subsidized broadband for poor communities? It seems like there needs to be a better way, one where the poor can be aided and educated, but without selling the farm to a few large companies.

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