The FCC recently conducted a hearing on the future of broadband and digital media at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Among the typical fanfare at FCC meetings like this, an interesting point of view emerged from FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. In his opening remarks, Copps likened broadband access to a civil right. 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?