Broadband is an essential service that Americans turn to for every facet of life. According to a recent survey, four out of five Americans agree that internet service is “as important as water or electricity.” But unlike water, electricity, or even phone service, broadband internet service is not universally available, creating a “digital divide.”
Millions of Americans are being left behind because they simply can’t afford access. In fact, U.S. broadband service is among the most expensive in the world. This high cost forces many to choose between feeding their families and getting or staying connected.
Affordability isn’t our only problem. We also need reliable networks so that internet access is there when we need it. This means that networks must be resilient, able to quickly recover from any incident that causes an outage, including natural disasters. We also need more competition: More than one-third of American households are trapped in a monopoly market without any provider choice. This lack of competition raises prices for consumers.
Lack of broadband access is an equity problem. The expansion of internet access has brought with it a phenomenon known as “digital redlining,” when broadband providers choose not to serve low-income neighborhoods that are disproportionately communities of color. Right now, rural, Tribal, and minority communities disproportionately lack access to broadband as a result of this policy.
Public Knowledge works to secure broadband access for everyone. To accomplish this, we urge Congress to create a consistent, long-term subsidy to help people afford access; promote competition among providers to lower prices; and require providers to offer on-site backup power to keep networks up. Congress should also ban providers from discriminating against consumers.