U.S. gov't urged to subsidize broadband Internet access to low income families

08:55, July 20, 2010      

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America is suffering from a " digital divide" with many Americans either can not afford high speed Internet or without service, and government subsidies are urged to help those low income families get on line.

According to the Internetforeveryone.org website, having a connection to fast, open and affordable Internet is no longer a luxury, it's a public necessity. But America is suffering from a " digital divide" with over 40 percent of the country unable to get online because they can't afford a connection or can't access high- speed Internet where they live.

According to the website, which pushes for high speed Internet for everyone, only 35 percent of American homes with less than 50, 000 U.S. dollars in annual income have broadband, while 76 percent of homes earning more than 50,000 dollars per year are connected.

The website said nearly 20 million Americans live in places that are not served by a single broadband provider, while tens of millions more live in places where there is just one provider.

Only 40 percent of ethnic minority households subscribe to broadband, while 55 percent of non-Hispanic white households are connected, the website said.

The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) last week urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to subsidize high speed Internet service to those who can not afford.

NHMC said in a statement that currently FCC is subsidizing telephone service in low income homes in the country with Lifeline and Link Up universal service programs.

NHMC also advocated that broadband Internet access be subsidized much like telephone connections are today, but then cautioned that broadband subsidies not be granted at the expense of the current telephone subsidies, which continue to bring telephone service to many homes that would otherwise be unconnected.

NHMC supports expanding the Lifeline and Link Up programs to subsidize broadband because the Internet can open doors for communities of color, low income communities and other historically disadvantaged groups to exercise their rights to fully participate in this country's democracy and for upward mobility for current and future generations.

"In this day and age, access to everything the Internet provides is not just a luxury, but rather a necessity," stated Jessica J. Gonzalez, NHMC's Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs.

"People of color and the poor are far less likely than others to have broadband access at home, and we all know that those without Internet access cannot compete in this society because they are unable to access things that many of us take for granted, such as financial aid and job applications, online learning experiences, information about health and transportation, research for homework assignments, and countless other important opportunities," Gonzalez said in a statement.

Without affordable and available Internet choices, too many people are virtually forgotten in a nation that increasingly demands high-speed access to engage socially, politically and economically, according to the Internetforeveryone.org website.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, since 2001, the United States has fallen from fifth to 22nd place in the world in broadband adoption. Countries in Asia and Europe have greater broadband penetration, and enjoy faster speeds at lower prices.

According to the Internetforeveryone.org website, people in Japan pay about half the price for an Internet connection that's 20 times faster than what's commonly available to people in the United States.

The lack of broadband access has severe economic consequences, the website said.

A 2007 study by the Brookings Institution and MIT estimated that a one-digit increase in U.S. per-capita broadband penetration -- the number of people who have high-speed Internet -- equates to an additional 300,000 jobs. If the U.S. broadband penetration were as high as a country like Denmark's, approximately 3.7 million additional U.S. jobs could be expected.

U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed that he will be " expanding broadband lines across America" to give everyone the chance to get online.

He signed into law economic stimulus legislation that includes 7.2 billion dollars for broadband deployment in rural and other underserved areas. Obama's advisers acknowledge it is just a " piece of the puzzle" in bringing the benefits of fast, affordable, open Internet to all Americans.

Local governments in the U.S. are also taking actions. In an effort to make high-speed Internet available to everyone, Pennsylvania will host a summit next month in the Harrisburg area.

The 2010 Pennsylvania Broadband Summit will bring together officials, telecommunications leaders, and other professionals in various fields.

Under the 2004 National Broadband Plan and the Recovery Act, every community in the commonwealth will have high-speed Internet access by 2015.

Source: Xinhua


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