Around the country, local governments are grappling with the challenge of getting quality broadband access to their citizens, but without data about what speeds customers are actually experiencing, making effective policy becomes impossible. Internet speed tests can help inform those policies, and while there are several tests available to users, they are not all the same.
New America’s Open Technology Institute called on the Federal Communications Commission to reject a petition that would harm the E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries access broadband service. Access Humboldt; National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; Next Century Cities; Public Knowledge; and United Church of Christ, OC Inc. signed onto the comments as well.
Broadband deployment is important. But deployment is just one piece of the digital divide. Another crucial piece of the puzzle: the cost of broadband service. Policymakers can’t afford to leave out the collection of pricing data. Affordability is the biggest barrier to broadband adoption, yet is continually left out of the conversation about availability. For many Americans, this lack of focus on pricing data results in a flawed picture of access, hinders policymaking, and distorts funding decisions that could promote competition in their areas.
When Verizon throttled firefighters during last summer’s deadly wildfires, the FCC did nothing to help. Without net neutrality rules in place, the agency’s hands were tied and the firefighters were forced to go to the media to plea for help. This is outrageous. We’re heading into another wildfire season, and nothing has changed. Net neutrality hasn’t been restored, and the FCC still lacks the authority to intervene when telecom companies abandon our nation’s first responders. We need Congress to pass the Save the Internet Act.
Can Congress prevent the disproportionate harm inflicted on marginalized communities from at times irresponsible commercial data practices? As our lives increasingly shift online, so, too, have methods of discrimination—using individual data profiles—and our laws have been slow to keep up.