It's easy to say all Americans should be able to use the Internet in the 21st century, which is probably why several leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have done just that. It’s much harder to say how to get there. Almost everyone, even on both sides of the aisle in Congress, seems able to agree on the need to fix the maps first. That’s because the Federal Communications Commission relies on coverage reports from industry, and carriers have incentive to exaggerate their reach.
If it wasn’t obvious before, the coronavirus pandemic makes clear the need for an open internet with broadband access for all Americans. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the broadband industry to see the light on control of the internet. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile and other major Internet service providers aren’t backing away from their goal of raking in billions by charging websites more for priority access to the internet. The providers are hoping Republicans will regain the White House in 2024 and once again roll back net neutrality provisions.
Tech issues aren’t likely to be at the top of Joe Biden’s agenda on Jan 20. But tech needs a seat at the Biden table to navigate what have been increasingly thorny issues for the industry: net neutrality, privacy, antitrust challenges, broadband access, science and technology investment, and H-1B visas.
For the millions of people behind bars in the US, the phone offers a vital connection to their families and the outside world. But placing a call comes at a cost — a steep one. But Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai is now asking states to impose price caps on intrastate prison phone calls, keeping the service affordable and accessible to inmates so that they can keep in touch with loved ones.
It’s critical that Congress provide funding in the next coronavirus relief bill to assist families that can’t afford internet access. But that will take time that students can’t afford. The government needs to do more to get them online now.
Michael Pack, the alt-right filmmaker installed by President Donald Trump to run US foreign broadcasting operations, remains on course to dismantle the independent journalism that has been their calling card. Apparently, Voice of America sources say Pack is refusing to renew the visas of foreign-born journalists who are vital to its mission of producing news reports in 47 languages. Pack has also frozen all VOA contracts, under which some 40 percent of its staff are employed.
Voice of America and other U.S. government media never engage in propaganda. Is that about to change?
For decades, US government-funded foreign broadcasting has distinguished itself from that of undemocratic nations with its commitment to quality journalism and editorial independence.
The digital divide was a problem before the pandemic. Now it’s an existential problem for students who can’t access live-streamed classes, for the ill who can’t virtually consult with a doctor, for isolated individuals who can’t find human connection on their laptop screens. The burden, as ever, disproportionately falls on the low-income, rural and nonwhite. There’s more the government can do today, and there’s an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the days to come.
The coronavirus pandemic happened and, in a breath, home internet went from desired option to life-sustaining necessity. If the shutdown is responsible for limiting the spread of the infectious respiratory disease that has killed more than 1,100 Pennsylvanians in a month, then the internet is why it isn’t more. And that is why the World Wide Web has to be wide enough to work for the whole world. Broadband access needs to be viewed as a utility little different from water or electricity or gas. It needs to be as accessible as the sidewalks that connect us to our schools and jobs and banks.
For the past several years, the Government Technology editorial team has picked apart State of the State addresses, looking for clues about new initiatives and areas of focus that will touch technology. As of Feb 3, 2020, about two-thirds of governors have delivered these speeches. Increasingly, governors are using their platforms to underscore the importance of making sure all residents, regardless of where they live, have options to get online. Internet access has profound impacts on opportunities in education, jobs, health care and nearly every other facet of modern life.