In Maine and nationwide, high broadband cost is part of the digital divide

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The Biden administration rolled out the Affordable Connectivity Program to help low-income people pay for service. The federal government should not stop with this subsidy program when it addresses the affordability component of the digital divide. Internet service providers (ISPs) will get a lot of new customers as the government pays to extend service to areas that have not been worth serving when the companies were stringing the wires, and it would be a shame if the businesses were allowed to use their near-monopolies to drive up prices for everyone else. Cable TV companies are famous for using predatory pricing tactics to drive out competitors, even when the competition comes from municipal broadband agencies. The cable companies famously offer low introductory offers that shoot up after a few months, and the real cost of service is obscured by hidden fees that aren’t disclosed until after the service is hooked up. These practices are barely tolerable for an entertainment product like cable TV, but they cannot be accepted for a necessary service, especially since the infrastructure is so heavily subsidized by the public. Competition between ISPs would be one way to control costs, but it is not always possible to create competitive markets in remote areas. Public and municipal systems will be needed to keep the commercial providers honest.


Our View: In Maine and nationwide, high broadband cost is part of the digital divide