The FCC recently conducted a hearing on the in Pittsburgh. Among the typical fanfare at FCC meetings like this, an interesting point of view emerged from . In his opening remarks, Copps . In regards to broadband, Copps says, “no matter who you are, where you live, how much money you make, whether you are young or old, rural or inner city, healthy or dealing with a disability, you will need—and you are entitled—to have these tools and services available to you. I think it’s a civil right; I really do.” I wonder where he thinks broadband get’s placed in the civil rights pecking order. Maybe before the right to vote, but after liberty.

We all know that broadband’s adoption is slowing. We also know that the more educated and affluent you are, the more likely you are to have broadband in your home. Probably the biggest challenge to broadband ubiquity is cost. Cost both to network providers for building it out, and to the end user for purchasing it. Until such time that those costs are dramatically lowered (either through free market economics or regulatory subsidies), this new “civil right” will certainly not be available to everyone. Is Copps likening of broadband to a “civil right” entitlement realistic? If so, how will we breakthrough through the current slowing broadband penetration rate to achieve it?

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8 thoughts on “Is Broadband Access a Civil Right?

  1. With all due respect, broadband is no more a civil right than electricity is. Let’s not trivialize civil rights, by trying to attach issues like this to it.

  2. I don’t know if its a civil right, but I think we need to look at broadband in a new way. Broadband is the 21st century and beyond “library.” Broadband public policy should look at broadband in much the same way we look at libraries. It should be accessible to everyone and at a cost that EVERYONE can afford. Does that make it a civil right – I don’t know, but citizens are definitely at a disadvantage if they don’t have access to it.

  3. Although it may be difficult for those in the political spotlight to understand, there are a great number of people that simply do not want broadband even if it was free! I speak to people every day that don’t have a computer in the home and don’t see that they need one. Some are elderly and some are young. The assumption that broadband should be a god given right ignores the fact that people should also have the right to choose what is best for them. The previous comment about access to broadband should be like libraries has already happened. Every library in the nation has broadband access which means all Americans can access the internet just as easy as they can check out a book.

  4. Public libraries have always been just that, open to the PUBLIC at a centralized location. We sit in a very rural part of NC and I don’t know of a single small town in eastern NC that doesn’t have some type of public access via library or community college. Matter of fact our company gives it free to the library in our town so everyone in our community has somewhere to go and access it. Saying that everyone should have access to the Internet and saying it should be in everyones home is two different things. Using big government to fund such programs is crazy and placing the burden on providers while regulating what they charge for it isn’t going to help either. Everyone should have a corvet to drive because they look nice but if you can’t afford it you don’t buy it.

  5. The telecommunications act of 1934 mandated the FCC with ensuring that everyone from metropolitan to rural areas had access to telephone service at a reasonable price. As part of the bureaucracy created by the “new dealers” at the time its debatable on how beneficial it was to the population. It stifled competition which, in turn, limited innovation. From 1934 to 1984 what innovation did we see from the phone companies other than direct dial and touch tone service? Since the breakup of AT&T in the 80’s and the deregulation of phone companies with the Telecom 1996 act we have seen leaps and bounds from innovation fueled by competition. VoIP, CLASS features, caller name and number delivery, mobile phones, drastically reduced LD rates, voicemail, and the internet itself to name a few.

    To claim that broadband can continue to grow and prosper under the same bureaucratic regulation that will inevitably come with the guarantee of broadband as a right is ludicrous. Companies will again do the bare minimum so they can meet the requirements to line up, hat in hand, at the feet of the almighty USAC waiting for their government sponsored dole that comes from redistributed earnings of other carriers. Look at the fraud and waste from schools and libraries in the E-Rate system today and tell me again that the government can efficiently run broadband.

    I suppose if broadband were considered a civil right we would also have to consider that owning a computer to access the internet would be a right as well – I just hope it doesn’t run vista.

  6. Broadband is certainly important. So is driving and owning a vehicle. But driving is a privilege and similarly broadband is not a “right”. The government should foster the development of broadband, but not force people to use it.

  7. Whether “right” is the correct term or not, the point is that broadband is becoming critical to civil, economic and social existence in the United States. This whole debate concerning whether it is a right is enabled by broadband. The newest wave of political expression all takes place on broadband. Job opportunities, Housing Opportunities, school opportunities and much more are all enhanced by broadband.

    The point is that government has to do more because the market is doing a lousy job, particularly for the poor. 98% of Americans have a TV but 50% have broadband. Not having broadband now is like not having TV in the 60s when the civil right movement and Vietnam were coming directly into the home and changing the American consciousness.

    What is particularly annoying is that the debate isn’t about how to get this done but on word choice.

  8. The way I see it is what type of “Right” was Mr. Copps referring?
    1. Most favorable, desirable, or convenient
    2. Fitting, proper, or appropriate
    3. Conforming with or conformable to justice, law, or morality.

    The technology is in place, and we as Citizens of this Great Nation some do use it, then that is our Right, but if we wish choose not to use Broadband then that is Right also. Now I would not say to be moral you have to have or at least use broadband, but the technology is here and steadily growing. I believe it is my Right to have it and to use it (as long as I can pay the bill). I agree with Mr. Copps

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