BROADBAND: Privilege or Priority

Written by A. Gupta, edited by L. Charlie Oliver

Apr 4, 2022

What started as a simple message transmitted between the two computers of Stanford and UCLA can now make a broad bandwidth impact on the world's economy. The privilege has transformed into a priority. Covid has managed to test waters like nothing else. The pandemic has introduced us to a new standard of living where maintaining distance with people is essential, where connecting virtually has become the new way of human contact.

What started as a simple message transmitted between the two computers of Stanford and UCLA can now make a broad bandwidth impact on the world's economy. The privilege has transformed into a priority. Covid has managed to test waters like nothing else. The pandemic has introduced us to a new standard of living where maintaining distance with people is essential, where connecting virtually has become the new way of human contact. During these times, broadband has helped be that mediator of preservation. But has it become a priority entirely? According to a 2019 report by Federal Communication Commission, 21 million Americans are still without a broadband connection, which is still much lower than Microsoft's analyzed and estimated 162.8 million people. This infers that a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second and upload speed of 3 megabits per second is still a luxury that some don't have access.

Various governments in the past have tried working towards reducing these numbers. During the current presidential Election of 2020, Joe Biden announced a $1.2 trillion infrastructural bill that included about $20 billion for rural broadband expansion. Statistics say that the high population density in the urban areas promotes improved broadband infrastructures, whereas low utility causes low incentives for the rural population. Experts claim that the current maps developed by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) are inaccurate. The listing of connections is often in the form of blocks and does not consider the accurate numbers of houses within that block. Even if one home has broadband, the entire block is listed as having broadband even though more than half are devoid of it. Now the FCC maps are also used by the agency and other government sectors to allocate funds, making the estimate incorrect and far different from the actual value.

The new president Joe Biden has acknowledged the bad data and is working on acquiring the new data which is efficient enough. According to The New Yorker, the new administration has also reviewed the federal subsidies and promised to build rural infrastructure and allocate more funds to local governments, associated organizations, tribal groups, and ways to wire the rural communities with the internet. In some ways, this plan is an expanded version of the past administration but with the allocation of much larger funds and the acknowledgment of previous mistakes. According to the Biden government, this step could be the economic equalizer and their way of politically connecting to the rural crowd.

The government also takes a positive stance toward Net Neutrality that prevents the large providers from favoring some content over others. This movement has received a fair share of positive reviews from people and on social media. The media approved this step to bring millions of people to the digital age. According to BCG publications, these Telecommunication infrastructures are not the sore reasons for such worse conditions. Reduced affordability and reduced digital knowledge have an equal role to it. Pandemic has been an eye-opener for such situations. Increased internet usage, improved connections, and base shifting of business to an online portal have managed to enlighten the gaps in the system. Fiber-optic broadband turned 50 this year. The current situation has improved the inclination towards high-speed internet for businesses and daily work.

They provide an opportunity to global customers to expand their access and business. The Governors have shown the importance of high-speed internet access in their State Address. Their key address was reducing these social and economic barriers by improving the conditions of infrastructure and accessibility to all.

They also included a $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund administered by FCC. The fund would provide $50 per month internet subsidies for low-income households and those who lost jobs during the pandemic, $75 subsidies for tribal lands, and discounts. Once said by Ajit Pai, Trump's FCC Chairman, "Broadband internet access should not depend on who you are and where you are from." If adequately planned and executed, the government's new action plan can turn out to be a boon for millions of people. The people who are still devoid of being in the digital age could be brought up to the speed of progression and the internet. They are a fundamental way of reducing the social and economic barrier between the society and people facing it. Today the internet's importance status is no longer argumentative. The internet is essential and should be used to "BUILD BACK BETTER BROADBAND."