Tag: "digital divide"

Posted May 27, 2010 by christopher

Bill Schrier, Seattle's Chief Technology Officer (informally, Chief Geek), recently explored the ways in which limited competition in broadband has kept prices too high for many Americans and suggests high prices should be a cause for concern on the level of network neutrality. He is right not only in noting the problem, but noting that there is no solution to it forthcoming from the states or feds.

However, communities can take control of broadband prices by building their own networks. Not only can they guarantee lower rates, they effectively force lower rates from incumbents (and often increased investment) by merely increasing local competition.

Due to limits in law and FCC policy, building a network is really the only power of local governments to ensure the community has the broadband access it needs to succeed.

I have long found it amazing that local governments have the power to set a limit on the lowest tier of cable TV prices but no ability to require a basic tier of Internet. What is more important to communities? Cable TV or broadband?

The City of Seattle – and other cities and counties – can regulate cable TV to a limited extent. Therefore we can demand cable companies provide a low cost basic service – $12.55 in Seattle for Comcast, for example, and there’s even a discount to that low rate for low-income residents – more details here.

The State of Washington – and other States – can regulate telephone service, and require telephone companies to provide a low cost basic phone rate, e.g. $8 a month for 167,000 households.

But NO ONE regulates broadband/Internet access. Consequently ISPs can charge whatever the market will bear. So in our present monopoly or duopoly environment throughout the nation – that is little choice for most of us – prices are at $30, $40 or more for even moderate speed access. Higher speed access is $100 or more. And that means low-income, immigrant, seniors and other households cannot afford access to the Internet. So they and their children are denied what is probably the most important pathway to education, information, jobs and higher income – access to the Internet. Even middle income households or neighborhood businesses cannot get affordable truly fast (e.g. 5 megabits per second symmetric) broadband.

Bill's post is well-linked and worth reading in its entirety....

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Posted September 25, 2009 by christopher

San Francisco has leveraged its municipally-owned fiber in a program to overcome the digital divide. Projects like this are a good early step for larger communities. First, invest in fiber to public buildings, schools, etc., to cut costs from leased lines (often, while upgrading capacity). Second, begin to leverage that fiber to increase affordable broadband availability in the community. Expand until community needs are met.

Posted July 29, 2009 by christopher

This is an interesting interview that explains why mapping is important and how it should be done to ensure the final product is useful for policy. Unfortunately, much of the broadband mapping in the U.S. has been done by a telco-front group called Connected Nation that produces shoddy, unverifiable maps without making any useful data public.

In this report, Gordon Cook interviews Sara Wedeman, a mapping expert who also works in behavioral economics. Cook describes the interview here, on his blog. The discussion ventures beyond mapping, offering keen insights into why universal broadband availability is so important.

A short excerpt:

COOK Report: In other words, if a Telco says, “we provide access there” what do the people say about it? Do they have service? Is it available? Can they afford to buy it? Can they use it, and do they use it?

Wedeman: That’s why the definition of “under-served” is so important, because a lot of people have construed this to be unique to rural areas. It is clear that in many of these rural locations there is literally nothing. However, what is not so obvious to many is that lots of people in urban areas don’t even have phones, let alone high-speed Internet connections. They may use a pay phone, or a cell phone. Before the mass adoption of cell phones, the only service they had was provided by pay phones.

Posted April 26, 2009 by christopher

InternetforEveryone.org is working to shed light on the millions of Americans who live without regular Internet access or lack the training or equipment to get online. A small reporting team is traveling to communities across the country to tell people's stories. Free Press' Megan Tady interviewed residents of Los Angeles, Calif., and Washington, D.C. On this site, you can follow our trek and get an up-close view of America’s urban digital divide. InternetforEveryone.org is working to shed light on the millions of Americans who live without regular Internet access or lack the training or equipment to get online. A small reporting team is traveling to communities across the country to tell people's stories.

Free Press' Megan Tady interviewed residents of Los Angeles, Calif., and Washington, D.C. On this site, you can follow our trek and get an up-close view of America’s urban digital divide.

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