The Next Public – Utility Internet Access
The Internet has undoubtedly changed communication, information, work and leisure in unparalleled ways. From its beginnings here in the United States, it has grown by leaps and bounds, so that now many countries have made it available and affordable to everyone who resides in those countries. However, here at home where it all began, high speed Internet access is not universally accessible. Those in rural areas and those who are poor are often without Internet. This infographic from SatelliteInformant.com visualizes this issue perfectly
Our Access Shortfall
While Finland made Internet access a legal right for its citizens in 2010, 3 years later the U.S. has not. While 94% of South Koreans enjoy high speed Internet, only 70% of Americans do. 100, 000,000 people in this country do not have access to broadband. Even worse, the speeds used by South Koreans are as much as 200 times faster than American users enjoy, and South Koreans spend on average $8 less per month for this superior service.
The Problem with Universal Access
The problem with bringing universal Internet access to Americans lies squarely with government and big business. Big name companies like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon and ATT dominate the high speed Internet market. They rake in huge profits, like Comcast with its 95% profit margin on service. These companies are not even responding to consumer need like providing unlimited data caps in the wireless market, despite the fact that households in this country currently use 52GB of data monthly, a figure expected to quadruple by the year 2016.
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Big business is lining the pockets of its top executives and decision makers in the government with the high fees American users are paying.
- Comcast CEO Brian Roberts earns $27 M
- Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg makes $26 M
- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson takes home $22 M
- Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt gets $16.4 M
The National Cable and Telecommunications industry trade group, AT&T and Verizon have spent close to half a billion dollars in efforts to lobby the federal government. At least 49 Congress members hold stock in AT&T, making any decisions for making Internet access a universal right, a clear conflict of interest. Interestingly, FCC decision makers who vote the way big business wants often have high paying jobs waiting for them when they choose to leave the FCC.
The Future of Internet Access in America
Americans have a fight ahead of them to get the Internet recognized as a utility as important to communications as the telephone was a century ago. There is no question that the United States needs to follow in the path of countries like South Korea and Finland and make high speed Internet access a reality throughout the nation, regardless of income or geography. The country that brought the Internet to the world should not be lagging so far behind in access to it now.