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We live in a country that generates the second largest amount of web traffic in the entire world, yet a startling 100 million people in this country, or one-third of the population, do not have broadband Internet access. This compares poorly with countries like South Korea, where 94% of residents have high speed Internet, and yet only 70% of Americans have it. How is it that the United States government is not recognizing the importance of the Internet to communications by making it as accessible as a public utility?
The US is lagging behind in three important areas:
- Providing high speed Internet access to rural areas
- Providing affordable high speed Internet, so even those with a low income have access
- Providing speeds that meet the needs of today’s Internet users.
The Reasons for Limited Access
Despite the fact that the United States was the country to introduce the Internet to the world, it has not kept up with providing adequate access to the masses. Part of the problem lies in the geography of this country. Running wires to provide high speed Internet access in every part of this huge country is a very pricey endeavor. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the access. Not only has the American government not come through with the technological necessities like fiber optics, it has also let a few companies like Comcast and Verizon control the market.
Quality and Price of Access
While a big part of the problem with the state of the Internet in the United States is actually access to high speed service, the other problematic areas are price and the quality of the service. We have much slower average speeds than South Korea, an average 6.7 Mbps compared to 15.7 Mbps, but we still pay an average of $8 more per month for worse service.
Affordability is a big deal. In New York City alone there are 2.2 million people who cannot afford Internet access. In a country where the Internet is so important, this is unacceptable. In Europe and Asia, you can find very high speed Internet access for $30 or less per month. In our country, comparable service would be $50 to $90 monthly.
Where is All The Money Going?
While the consumer shells out a lot for inadequate service, ATT is enjoying a 95% profit margin on their broadband offerings. We are also lining the pockets of CEOs of the big Internet providers, who earn a sizeable 500-1000 times more than an average worker at their companies.
- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson makes $22 M
- Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt brings home $16.4 M
- Comcast CEO Brian Roberts earns $27 M
- Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg gets $26 M
The rest of our high fees go towards controlling the government, so it doesn’t make affordable Internet access a right like Finland did in 2010. A half a billion dollars spent on government lobbying is significant enough for telecommunications giants to be heard. Providing lucrative jobs to FCC members who voted the way the big companies wanted speaks volumes too.
The average home is projected to use 52GB of data monthly by 2016. The Internet is taking over as the leading communication medium in the nation and the government needs to recognize this. As our need for Internet grows, the federal government needs to respond and bring us on par with countries worldwide that are doing it much better than we are presently.