Wouldn’t publicly owned and operated internet come in handy right about now? With so many students learning online and so many people working from home, wouldn’t that be nice?
Americans pay more than almost anyone else for speeds that are some of the slowest among advanced economies. Roughly three million children do not have internet access at home. Only two-thirds of Americans have broadband access. The percentage is even lower for low-income, black, and Latino communities.
Comcast, Verizon, and other corporate internet service providers are some of the country’s most hated companies.
Wondering which service provider is rated the highest? That would be Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Gig City” built a public network in 2010 and now has the nation’s fastest internet speeds. Anyone can access fast, reliable Wi-Fi almost anywhere in the city—for free.
The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed what’s long been true: High-speed internet is a public good. It enables education, healthcare, public safety, civic participation, economic growth, and much more. It connects our communities, the nation, and beyond. And, in times like these, it keeps us close to friends and loved ones.
Calls are growing for federal spending on infrastructure. On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted: “With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4.”
On Wednesday, House Democrats unveiled an infrastructure plan that includes funding for expanded broadband service.
However big the investment ends up being, whenever it happens, internet infrastructure should be treated like a public utility, like electricity and water—because we all need it.