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WWL: Closing the Digital Divide
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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Is broadband a civil right?


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48:59 minutes (23.51 MB)
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The Internet might have been born here in the US, but we’ve fallen behind much of the industrialized world when it comes to making sure everyone can access the web.  Non-white households, rural households, and low income households are still significantly less likely than wealthier, whiter, more urban populations to have fast, reliable internet at home. And that's a problem. Connectivity has consequences for the economy and for education, and increasingly, for democracy.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $7.2 billion in stimulus funding for broadband deployment to under served areas—to be distributed by next summer. Many are calling this a golden opportunity to close the digital divide, a move towards Internet access for all Americans. Coming up, Where We Live, a discussion with policy experts and activists.

How do we get affordable broadband into housing projects? Over mountain passes? Out to remote farms? And why does it matter? What do you think? Has internet access become more than a luxury…is it a right?

This episode originally aired July 8, 2009.

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Is broadband a civil right

No, I do not think broadband is a civil right.  Yes, I believe that TRUE market competition could provide the solution to many of the problems posed by your program.  I believe you missed the focus on one key point -- competition was limited in several markets by a few key players. The key point that you totally missed is that the only way for the KEY PLAYERS to limit competition is through corrupt legislation, by politicians whom are paid off and corrupted by the corrupt KEY PLAYERS.  To think that the same legislative bodies could be trusted with our tax dollars to  enact legislation that would improve the situation without further enriching the KEY PLAYERS is naive at best, outright stupid at worst. What we should be doing is researching who passed the legislation, exposing them, and then repealing the bad legislation and allowing a free market to work.

I believe that this great nation was created by our founding fathers to provide these key rights -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Those and the rights specically enumerated in the bill of rights are our civil rights.  They all required a strict process of ratification to become constitutional rights.  With these rights I have the ability to achieve many of the things too many people mistakenly believe are other rights - like food, clothing, a home, medical care, internet service, etcetera.  When our founders said that all men are created equal, they were referring to equality of opportunity, not results. I work very hard for those things, and do not particularly appreciate people who do not care to work so hard, taking them from me through taxation because some politician decided that they could get elected by offering free internet, free housing, free medical care, free etcetera. Freedom is not free, it takes hard work.

Listener email from Pua

Those interested in local discussion of providing better broadband access to the internet should be aware of the work of the CT Broadband Internet Coordinating Council, which has been meeting since Sept. 2008. Minutes of their quarterly meetings are posted at: http://www.ct.gov/cbicc/site/default.asp?

The council has academics, municipal officials & industry representatives. Jack McCoy of the Town of Manchester is the most vocal concerning providing access to the less affluent, especially to students in his town & their families. http://www.ct.gov/cbicc/cwp/view.asp?a=3592&q=428410

The League of Women Voters of Connecticut carried out a study of media issues in 2006-2007 (just in case anyone thought it wasn't obvious) and in 2008 adopted a position in support of universal broadband internet access in the state. http://lwvct.org/issues/action-archives/2009-10/Media%20Issues/index.htm

Listener email from Nancy

Stating that the internet should be free is dangerous. It should be more accessible and easier to use. But it will never be free since we all pay taxes. If we want the internet to be "free" then we should establish a huge tax that everyone pays and everyone will have equal access.

We already pay lots of taxes on our cable bills that supposedly bring cable and access to rural areas. But the fed government won't establish a huge tax since everyone won't have equal access. People can go to the library, as long as libraries are funded by taxes. That is a local problem, which will be highlighted next year. Everyone should have access and it should be equal access.

Also the websites should be designed under the rules of Universal Design in response to the Disabilities Act.

Facebook comment from Fred

"Is it due to inefficiency ? or is it due to competition, the fostering of competition in the marketplace. Japan has 1 major teleco, it's a monopoly but highly regulated. This will not fly in the US. Before the dot com boom it seem there were digging projects everywhere burying lots of fiber optics. What happened to this capability? Who owns that now? I'm sure a company like Global Crossing had plenty of assets that were? are we abandoning lots of capability in the ground? or are the companies owning this extra capacity holding onto it so they can charge more? supply / demand?"

 The internet and

 The internet and government should be separate in nearly all aspects. Internet should not be provided as a governmental service. The internet is the only true, pure capitalistic society we have. If they government were to provide internet to us all, they could also control the internet and your computer usage. Not to mention, it's our tax dollars going into this fund. I do not want the Gov't to have any control over the internet, as they would then have the power for rules and restrictions. As mentioned before, the Internet is the closest thing we have to true capitalism. On the internet, one can do what one wishes without need to worry. If we had pure capitalism in real life, it would be chaos- mainly due to our ability to harm one another physically. The internet eliminates this problem by allowing for communication, wether by text, audio, or even video- yet there is no way to damage someone. If the government were to start providing internet, we would lose the capitalistic freedom that makes the internet what it is. Not only do I think that the USA should not provide internet, I also believe that the government should stay away from internet regulations- if you manage to get a virus unto your computer and don't have security software installed, you deserve to have the virus. 




Listener email from Elena

I am a clinical social worker treating people from a wide economic spectrum. It's strange to see high income kids with their own Blackberries at age 10, and to see struggling adults with no internet access. One person I see is the mother and sole caretaker for her disabled child. I was able to get a free computer for her from a non-profit, but she doesn't have $30 a month for internet access. Without the internet, it's almost impossible to deal with the world. As she says "everything's on line". She desperately needs the social networking and research capacity of the internet, but has no hope of that for a long time living on public assistance.

Listener email from Kate

Free market doesn’t mean everything is free. We have to pay for telephone service and telephones, and electricity and water.

People in cities do have access to the internet; they just have to pay for it. Or they can get it for free at Dunkin’ Donuts or many libraries.

Perhaps schools could provide free access after hours, since many of them already have it. Can people in the country get access through the satellite systems they can get TV service through?

Another thought. My nearby neighbors could get onto the internet via broadband through my wireless network router if I gave them the password. People who can’t afford internet on their own could make the cost more affordable by sharing such a connection with their neighbors – we just have to make it legal for them to do so.

Listener email from Isabel

I agree that internet access for all is becoming more and more important. I teach at a state university and, while it happens less and less, I do still occasionally come across a student who does not have internet access at home--I, of course, point them to the on-campus access which is free and open to them, but not having had access, these students are often not confident about using the internet.

However, providing internet access to everyone is not the same as providing electricity or water. The internet poses dangers that those basics don't. While providing access, we also need to provide guidance. Free access in libraries or cafes won't prepare users for dealing with the many frauds people try to perpetrate over the internet. Parents need to know how to monitor their kids internet use to protect them from pedophiles. My own students--any of whom have had internet access their whole lives--don't realize that everything they read on the internet isn't true, that some sources are more trustworthy than others, that some sources are not at all trustworthy. So if we do provide access--or as more and more people get it on their own--we need to step up digital education as well.

While your guest suggests providing internet access is much simpler than providing electricity or infrastructure or water was, I believe that it is far more complicated because it is not just about access, but also about responsible and safe use.

Listener email from Martha

One thing that I haven't heard mentioned is that so many newspapers are leaving print publishing and concentrating on the web.

People who once depended on print media for news are left in the dark. My husband and I recently cancelled our subscription to the Courant in order to get the Norwich Bulletin (a more local papaer for us). But everyday I log onto the Courant, while I have my coffee, to check the obituaries!

Martha, East Haddam

internet access

I just heard the last 25 minutes of so of the program. 


I think the most important aspect of universal internet access is

access to news and opinions that are not provided by the major

print and broadcast news groups.