fccReuters and ZDNet  report that, at a Digital Inclusion Summit aimed at addressing the 1/3 of American households that lack broadband service, the FCC has announced it may make wireless spectrum available for an “affordable” national broadband network.

Details were sparse, so I can only speculate about such things as how the system would work, what areas would be covered, and how much it would cost. But having lived in rural Missouri for some time, including several months relatively recently recovering from a broken leg, I can say it would certainly mean a great deal to have this sort of access in rural areas.

At the time, my parents had only a pretty basic level of DSL access—hardly “broadband” at all. Rural areas tend to have a lot fewer choices for high-speed Internet. I’ve heard that some libraries lately have been having a harder time justifying the amount they spend on Internet service, and a lower cost government-provided alternative could help them out considerably as well.

Over the last few years, broadband access to the Internet has gone from an expensive luxury to practically a necessity as new forms of electronic media have emerged to take advantage of that broadband access for the people who do have them. By now four out of five people worldwide consider Internet access to be a basic human right. (How we would have laughed at anyone claiming that back in my college days!)

Making a wireless broadband network available would give consumers a choice, and help bridge the “digital divide” to let more low-income families take advantage of the educational and other media opportunities the Internet has to offer—including e-books. But expect entrenched broadband interests to show significant opposition.


  1. I think you get what you pay for. I know some people that just don’t believe they should pay the money or who don’t even use the internet. I don’t think we should just give people the internet. Next thing it will be housing and food and a job. These are USSR type of speaking. I would how ever agree with the fact that we should have government regulations that force internet providers to provide high speed service to rural areas. I have heard of satellite high speed internet for rural areas. I think if you just give people anything they don’t appreciated it.

  2. “By now four out of five people worldwide consider Internet access to be a basic human right. (How we would have laughed at anyone claiming that back in my college days!)”

    Depressing. Linking Internet access, a “right” that made no sense until recently, with a genuine right like not being killed for your political or religious beliefs dilutes and cheapens the entire concept of rights. In today’s discourse, claiming a “right” is often a heavy-handed attempt to crush debate. Talk about “rights” is very, very often used to crush freedom of speech, particularly the freedom to criticize politically privileged groups.

    No, Internet access is merely a practical implication of genuine rights such as free speech, which themselves have to be qualified. Moving it up to the level of a “basic human right” ignores complexities such as:

    1. Does “Internet access” mean child pornographers can recruit children via the Internet or are there parental and societal rights that trump this so-called “basic human right.” And if there are, this “right” isn’t “basic.”

    2. Will impoverished societies be free to attach priorities to their policies, for instance judging clean, safe water more important in remote villages than Internet access to YouTube videos about kittens. Again, attaching the label “basic human right” isn’t helpful in the real world.

  3. If talking about “rights” is a way to trump debate, mentioning child pornography is second only to using terrorism as a way to stop discussion. These and similar bugaboos would kill any attempt at a government-provided, or likely even -subsidized, internet service. A service filtered enough for know-nothing tastes would be less useful than dialup.

  4. There is a problem with this though. I work for a small independent telco. We serve rural areas exclusively, and offer DSL to 100% of our customers. This measure would change the way federal funding is allocated, and would kill my job and any other small telcos. We usually have trouble repaired the same day it is called in, and have someone on call on weekends and holidays for same day response. We are looking at putting fiber to the home in next. This is a ten year plan, and says that 4 Mb is all that is required. So you would trade, at bare minimum, copper based DSL (in 10 years probably 100% FTTH) with same or next day service, for a 4 Mb wireless connection that may or may not work. Here, AT&T towers were out for a week before they even noticed. I’m proud of my company and the service we offer. It would be a travesty to destroy that and force customers into substandard service from a company that doesn’t care about them.

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