Does Everyone Have a Right to the Internet?

Posted May 24, 2007 12:00 pm by with 0 comments

Broadband internet. It used to be a premium version of "dial-up" which costs too much for most. But now, it’s everywhere you go, with the spread of wireless internet connection technologies (Wi-Fi) as well as companies entering widespread to cash in on consumer necessity. Today, it is simply a valid assumption to say that a majority of you reading this article right now have some form of access to broadband-speed internet. It is one of those technologies that penetrate into mainstream society in one way or another.

Given today’s constant need for internet access to a large number of people, the overwhelming penetration of the technology makes sense. However, I’m sure you will be surprised to hear that among high-tech countries who are members in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States is fifteenth in per-capita broadband adoption. Simply, the United States, who has traditionally been pioneers in science and technology, is nowhere near the most "connected" nation in the world. And what is to blame for that? I think there are numerous reasons.

We should be all familiar with the relation between power and power to do evil. Broadband internet opens a gateway of tremendous information and versatility to do everything from within the luxury of your own home. As the internet is further saturated, more and more can be done through it. You can now check and resolve your bills online. For those of you in school, you can register for certain classes online. You can shop online using virtual money. You can even purchase groceries online. With all this versatility and power, you can also become a victim. You are transferring financial data online. You are disclosing your identity when you shop. Heck, given that emails are "virtual mailboxes," mal-intent people can even read your personal mail. If you don’t have internet, you won’t have to worry about that. In short, there are those who would rather not mess with new technologies.

For those who want internet or have had it before, the step goes further. If any of you have moved at all in the past few years and have attempted to sign up for new broadband internet service, you quickly find out that your options are severely limited. Generally, you have the option of one or two cable internet services as well as about two or three digital subscriber line (DSL) services through phone companies. As there is a semi-monopoly in the business, each broadband company tend to charge very high prices for internet — usually around triple that of normal dial-up internet services. Given the financial model of internet services is a monthly payment setup, any sort of price peaks can be rather costly to the average consumer. For many, as I see it, this is enough to discourage upgrading to the "fast lane" and either stay with dialup internet, or not subscribe to any internet at all.

The latter case has been of concern to several major corporations over the past several years. A total of fifty four companies have voiced their concern and have collectively called on the United States Government to implement a nation-wide broadband policy. The corporations are calling not only for regulated and more competitive pricing of broadband services, but also open-access, net neutrality, as well as enhanced security. Currently, the broadband providers are free to set prices and control their areas as they see fit. In true form of the given economic model, prices are high and speeds are low. The technology used in broadband internet, no matter what spin it takes on, is among the worst in the world. That should change, noted the group.

My Views: Internet for Everyone

First off, with the way the internet today is becoming an integral part of life and society, it is without doubt that what was once labeled as a luxury and a commodity is slowly drifting into the realm of necessity. Uniform internet and computer access is a necessary part of a modern society and to say that only those who can afford it have the opportunity to do things online is one of the shortcomings of society today. One day, perhaps government functions, such as voting or filing forms are required to be done online? Gateways to the "other world", the virtual world, should be open to everyone as it is a necessity to many.

Now, having switched broadband providers numerous times due to numerous moves, I can say that this market is highly non-competitive. A limited number of companies can provide cable or telephone to a given area and given that high-speed internet relies on those mediums, monopolies are a certainty. If the United States was truly a pioneer of technological innovation, it should start with the consumers. The Internet should be in the hands of everyone without a large premium to pay.

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