WORLD FUTURE FUND
INTERNET FOR ALL
The Internet is the greatest communication revolution in history. Should it only be for the rich?
We say no.
Would America have been a major success if we only built toll roads, instead of super highways for all? Absolutely not. Why did the United States of America become a major world super power in the 20th century? Was it luck? No. It was the massive mobilization of government forces that connected this country via technology. In the 19th century it was the transcontinental railroads that brought the nation together after it was nearly destroyed by the Civil War. This paved the way for American development, taking a cross country trip that took weeks and cutting it down to days. The development of interstate highways and airports in the 20th century connected us even further, cutting down a day long journey into a few hours. Telecommunications and electricity were also brought forward by government mandates.
These were investments for all Americans. Today, the internet is even more important than the railroads and airports of the past. It is absolutely essential to education of our citizens.
Unfortunately, the state of today's American internet is nothing short of a disaster and a disgrace. Due to a total failure of national leadership, whole sections of the nationa cannot even get broadband. The wiring of America has been done on the basis of wealth and profit. In short, poor and rural areas have been left out. Among low income households (households with an income of $30,000 or less),40% do not have access to the internet.
The Internet is the transcontinental railroad of the 21st century, and we as a nation are failing to get on board the train.
Connecting the best and brightest minds to one another at a minimal cost can help generate the creativity that keeps this country going. How can we expect to stay competitive in the world game when not all Americans are even plugged in to play? Furthermore, American average internet speeds lag behind countries like South Korea, Japan and Singapore.
We should set a national goal of at least 100 MB per second for 100% of all Americans. We'll leave the details to the experts. This is a goal that can be done. However, it won't happen by accident. We need strong leadership and money from the government. The President should set up a national broadband council of the top companies in the industry, along with experts and citizen groups that can offer the best ideas.
WHY INTERNET FOR ALL IS SUCH A VITAL GOAL
JOBS AND FINANCIAL POWER
Jobs that depend upon broadband availability are projected to increase by 25% or more by 2018. According to the Internet Innovation Alliance, a $10 billion investment in broadband would produce nearly 500,000 new jobs. Nearly 18% of new jobs in North Carolina alone have been created as a direct result of broadband internet access. Not to mention that more than 62% of the American workforce now relies on the internet to do their jobs. (Internet Innovation Alliance).
A key problem in America is that the skill-sets of its workers do not match the demands of growing industries. Computer and tech companies are having a particularly difficult time in finding employees with the right skill set. According to a recent survey, 71% of the tech and computer companies surveyed stated that they had unfilled positions for technology or math focused jobs. (Entrepreneur, 1-29-15). Hooking up more Americans to the internet would be a helpful step in correcting the technology gap in our current job market.
There is no question that an investment in broadband would be an investment in the American economy. In the 19th century, it was our ability to get Americans wired into the electrical grid that kept the lights on and kept factories going. We must accomplish the same goal with plugging our businesses into the World Wide Web.
Internet connectivity is crucial for many small businesses trying to take off the ground. Small businesses accounted for the majority of the 1.2 million jobs generated in America during the last 10-15 years. Being able to telework and reach a broad customer base via the internet is a crucial tool for developing businesses.
The Internet can also provide opportunities for parents who struggle to find adequate day care for their children. Child-care is said to devour at least 30 percent of minimum-wage worker's earnings in every state, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. Not to mention that day care even has high costs for affluent parents. The opportunity to telecommute could offer desperate parents the chance to save on day care costs while also giving them a chance to make sure that their children are safe and secure. Many parents do not have the opportunity to take off work when their children are sick. So the ability to telecommute would be an economic benefit for working families, along with a security and health benefit for children.
Among low income households (households with an income of $30,000 or less), 40% do not have access to the internet. Yet the internet is a key tool in building bridges for those without the means to climb up the economic ladder. Many poor people live in areas that lack jobs, and many don't have adequate transportation in order to commute to a better job. The internet can empower low income Americans by allowing them to offer their skills to the workforce regardless of their geographic location.
A MATTER OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY
Health care is currently an over-bloated industry where Americans pay more and get less. Health-care is expensive because there are so many overhead costs. Electronic health records would improve efficiency and lower costs. Not to mention that in many rural clinics, broadband access is unaffordable. A National Broadband strategy would improve the ability for these rural clinics to access patient records with expediency and lower costs. This is essential in emergencies where a patient may only have seconds to live. Accessing medical records from an online file in seconds will be a life saving event, versus wasting several minutes (or even hours) faxing the same information.
In an increasingly wired world, many of the traditional methods of communication (such as land-line phones) are going out of business. As a result, there are many people (particularly older people in rural areas) that have no way to reach the rest of the world if they have an emergency. Internet access for these people could be a matter of life and death.
AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENERGY CONCERN
The ability for businesses to telecommute and network via the internet cuts down on traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of paperwork necessary to run a business is also diminished by the ability to view information online. Overall, a National Broadband strategy would help the environment by reducing the need for transportation and office space. It is also possible to modernize the electric grid with broadband, making it more reliable and less prone to outages.
WHAT IS NEEDED
What is needed is presidential leadership and funding from the government. A "Broadband Summit" should be held at the White House to get the views of all relevant parties, particularly the giant cable TV and cell phone companies. Decisions need to be made about the means to reach all communities. We don't pretend to know the cost picture for all areas between cellular broadband and land based fiber optics. We do know that the latter can be very expensive. What is needed is a national plan and some idea of what the subsidies will need to be for those without adequate money. We should also look at the cost of providing low cost internet access devices (such as tablets and phones).
If ever there was a need for "education improvement", this is it. It gives poor and rural communities access to the world.
We feel a national budget of $50 billion or more would be a bargain. However, it may be necessary to start with a smaller sum to perfect the details of the program. This money could pay for tax incentives to serve difficult areas just as there are tax incentives for low income housing.
This is the right thing to do. It's good for the economy, and it's a political winner.
A VITAL EDUCATIONAL RIGHT
Many people believe that a lack of funding is a problem in the education system. Yet as a percent of GNP, America spends more on education than most other modern states. Historically, education spending is at an all-time high. Our education system is over bloated and inefficient. High School graduation rates have barely budged since the 90's. In 1990, the average graduation rate was 73.7 %. By 2005 there was a modest increase to 74.7%, despite enormous increases in spending. Mindlessly throwing money at the problem is not working.
We need an education system oriented to 21st century job skills. We must have universal access to high speed broadband to make this work. In particular, we need to end the fairy tale that going to college is an automatic ticket to wealth. This fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, given that there is now an entire generation of Americans with chronic levels of debt. Consumers now owe more on their student loans than their credit cards. Yet half of these graduates can't even find a job (The Atlantic). This is not to mention that college debt is exempt from bankruptcy.
One hundred thousand dollars worth of debt for limited results is not a real education plan. A National Broadband plan would allow many prospective students to plug into a free, online university (called the 'Internet'). Much of the information that students learn from $200 dollar text books is already available online, and doesn't cost a single penny.
Broadband can also provide more customized learning options and expand education beyond the physical limitations of the classroom. A customized learning program is essential for instilling children and adults with the specific skill set needed for the workplace. Many Americans are falling behind the global workforce. We are developing less engineers, scientists and technicians than our economic competitors in Asia. Increasing internet access would be a key goal in building the future generation.
Many schools still waste time teaching children outdated and unnecessary skills that they will never use in the workforce. In the classroom, teachers often hear the bemoaned phrase "when am I ever going to use this" from their students. But the students are right, they shouldn't have their time (or parent's tax payer money) wasted on something they will never use in their adult life. Instead, digital skills and online literacy need to be incorporated into the curriculum at a young age.
Broadband connectivity would also be a helpful tool in teaching children in poor neighborhoods. Universal Broadband Access at school is essential for children who lack books, computers and other basic educational resources at home. It would be a means to allow those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder to have greater access to knowledge.
INCREASING ACCESS TO DIGITAL CONTENT
The federal government should increase the legal accessibility to online digital data with standards established by the U.S. Department of Education. Part of this involves congress taking action to encourage copyright holders to grant educational digital rights of use. The current crackdown of available online content is detrimental to the learning process on both a national and global level. If we are to raise an educated nation of people, we need to stop this online copyright war. An online collaboration of the world's most brilliant minds will be critical to solving the pressing issues of our time. Much of this content can act as a free online library - making much of the expenses of an over inflated educational system unnecessary.
STATE OF THE INTERNET IN AMERICA
BILLS AND LEGISLATION
House, Senate Democrats unveil $94 billion bill to improve Internet access
Digital divide persists even as lower-income Americans make gains in tech adoption (Pew Research 2019, 5-7-19)
GROUPS PUSHING FOR INCREASING BROADBAND ACCESS
State Broadband Task Forces (NCSL)
Group Pushes for Broadband Solutions in Rural America (GovTech, 1-25-18)
BROADBAND FOR ALL PLANS
Connecting for Inclusion: Broadband Access for All (The World Bank)
Broadband for All in New York (ny.gov)
High-Speed Internet for All (Bernie Sanders)
Broadband for All in the EU (Europa.eu)
5G pipe dream: Millions of Americans lack broadband still (CNET, 7-25-19)
Broadband for All: Connecting Everyone, Everywhere to the Digital Economy (Third Way, 2-1-19)
BROADBAND SUBSIDIES FOR LOW INCOME AMERICANS
THE NEED FOR SUBSIDIES TO BRING THE INTERNET TO LOW INCOME AMERICANS
In 1995, even Newt Gingrich proposed getting laptop PCs for every poor child. We need to do what we can to equip the poor with the basic tools of the economic future.
We believe that a series of subsidies is needed to help bring the internet to low income house holds. This would be a boon for the U.S. economy. Not only would it connect impoverished Americans with needed work, but the opportunity to get an education through the internet would help connect low income Americans to a 21st century economy. Such subsidies should also include the distribution of mobile phones or laptops.
The FCC's current "Lifeline" program was established in the 80's, and is stuck in the 80's. Lifeline subsidizes $10 of phone service per month for qualified customers. Yet for today's communication needs, $10 is a drop in the bucket.
FCC ANNOUNCES NEW INTERNET PLAN
The FCC recently announced a subsidy plan that would establish minimum requirements on companies to make sure that speeds and Internet data keep up with modern demands.
Tom Wheeler along with two other Democrats on the FCC have publicly stated that the program needs to adapt to modern technology. Studies have shown that low-income households have less access to the internet than the wealthy. While nearly all high-income individuals have access to broadband, less than half of households making under $25,000 have access. (Pew Research 2015).
However, the proposal does not currently seek to increase the $10 reimbursement, and would keep in place the limit of one subsidy per household.
The current FCC subsidy plan requires having a third party decide who is eligible for internet, instead of phone and internet providers. Providers will also be required to take a 'snapshot' once a month of its customers receiving subsidies.
While having a plan is a good start, we believe that much more must be done.
FCC moves forward with broadband Internet subsidy for the poor (The Hill, 6-18-15)
FCC PLAN TO BRING 100 MBPS TO 100 MILLION HOMES
The FCC also released the outline for an ambitious plan in 2010 to bring 100 Mbps internet to 100 million American homes. However, much of the implementation of this goal is yet to be seen.
FCC unveils ambitious broadband plan (Geek, 3-16-10)
UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND
The Universal Service Fund (USF) is a system of telecommunications subsidies and fees managed by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intended to promote universal access to telecommunications services in the United States.
INFORMATION ON THE NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION ASSOCIATION
GLOBAL STATE OF THE INTERNET
According to Ookla Net Index (5-1-15), Singapore currently has the fastest average internet speed at 121 Mbps. Meanwhile, America's not even in the top ten. America manages to clock in at 26th place at an average speed of 35 Mbps.
This number also doesn't include the many Americans today who still don't even have access to the internet. While the situation has improved in some places, such as in cities like Chattanooga, TN where the citizens can get up to 1 GB in Mbps, there are many rural locations where Americans can't get internet access at all. For example, as many as 90% of Native Americans lacked internet access in 2012. (USA Today).
5 MAJOR CITIES GET 1 GBPS INTERNET FOR LESS THAN $40 A MONTH, WHILE MONOPOLIES STIFLE U.S. COMPETITION
Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo are three cities where citizens can purchase internet with upload and download speeds at around 1 Gbps at a cost equivalent to less than $40 per month. In Paris and Bucharest, internet with download speeds around 1 Gbps and upload speeds under 200 Mbps are also available. Yet in a chart of the top best broadband internet providers, only one American city makes it into the top ten, and this city comes in 7th place.
Many Americans are forced to pay more for less because of laws that protect cable monopolies. Less competition means higher prices and vastly greater wealth for those who can tighten their grip over the industry. As a result, America is left to lag behind the rest of the world in its internet speed, cost and geographic reach.
Top 10 Internet Speeds Per City (Aljazeera, 5-29-15)
SUPPORT FOR INTERNET IN EUROPE AND OTHER NATIONS
There are already plans underway by the European Union's Digital Agenda for Europe to offer all citizens a minimum of 30Mbps broadband by 2020. The United States needs to keep up with European and Asian powers in terms of technological advances.
Broadband For All in the EU by 2020 (Ars Technica)
PLANS FOR GLOBAL INTERNET ACCESS
FACEBOOK'S PLAN TO HELP PLUG IN THOSE WHO DON'T HAVE INTERNET (TWO THIRDS OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION)
Two thirds of the world's population still does not have internet access. Internet access means a connection to educational opportunities normally denied to those with few resources. Internet.org is an interesting initiative led by Facebook to bring technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities together to connect those who go without internet. The problem is that many of the devices that allow people to go online are too expensive, service plans are too expensive, mobile networks are few and far between, much of the internet content isn't in the local language, power sources are limited and many networks can't support a large amount of data. So it is the goal of Internet.org to remove these obstacles.
While we cannot yet state whether this program is a success or not, we just think it is an interesting idea worth pointing out.
INVENTOR ELON MUSK UNLEASHES PLAN FOR GLOBAL INTERNET ACCESS
The inventor Elon Musk believes that he can provide internet access to every corner of the planet with the use of 4,000 satellites. He even claims that these satellites will be capable of providing internet access to a tent in the Sahara Desert, if need be. He says that these satellites are smaller and cheaper than those of competitors. Now he's seeking government permission to begin testing.
U.S. National Broadband For All
National Broadband Plan FCC 2010
National Broadband Plan (Wikipedia)
Broadband For America (Lobby for Cable and Phone Companies)
Fiber to the Home (A non-profit organization dedicated to expanding all fiber networks)
Internet Subsidies For Low Income Americans
FCC looks to subsidize low-income Americans' Internet access (The Hill, 5-28-15)
FCC Aims to Subsidize Internet Service for the Poor (National Journal, 3-11-15)
Europe's Digital Agenda
Top 10 Internet Speeds Per City (Aljazeera, 5-29-15)
The FCC may finally admit that 4Mbps doesn’t count as ‘broadband’ anymore (Yahoo News, 5-31-14)
Do We Need a New National Broadband Plan? (Ars Technica, 7-27-12)
Free Federal Wireless Broadband For All Americans? Fuggedaboutit! (Time: Business and Money, 2-6-13)
Corporate Ties Bind U.S To Slow Internet (Financial Times, 2-24-13)
Broadband For All in the EU by 2020 (Ars Technica, 3-26-13)
DISCLAIMER: We do not necessarily agree or disagree with Crawford's point of view, we just think it is a viewpoint in the broadband debate that needs to be covered.
She claims that Telecom monopolies are affecting our ability to stay economically and technologically competitive with countries such as Japan and South Korea.