EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
The virus has made us go virtual. We bank online, shop for groceries online, spend time with loved ones online, attend schools online, and even access a ballot online. Today, the Internet is an essential service, a public good. Like electricity or water, no one should be excluded from using it. But far too many Americans are cut off from access to affordable high-speed Internet even as more of our core systems go digital. Unchecked, the result will be an America even more unequal than the one we see today.
Broadband infrastructure has expanded in some places, but consumer access to broadband is receding. The reason? American broadband rates are some of the most expensive in the world. The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to roll back net neutrality in 2018 made it possible for broadband companies to charge more for certain services or content. Now, a trend of “tier flattening” means that the range of plans at different price points is being eliminated. This undermines the right of consumers to the option of an affordable plan.
roadblocks to access disproportionately impact people of color. To qualify for home broadband, for instance, consumers must pass a credit check, a system shot through historically with racial inequities. As a result, black and Latino households are less likely to have access to broadband. According to a 2016 Free Press report, nearly half of Americans without at-home Internet are in black and Hispanic households.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.