In the next few months, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide the future of the Internet. Major telecom and cable companies are seeking unprecedented control over what you can see and say online. If the FCC's plan to allow fast lanes for the few goes forward, the rest of us will suffer. The deep-pocketed will pay to move their online content at top speed, consigning nonprofit, independent and dissenting voices to the slow lane.
In the 21st century, fast, reliable, and affordable Internet service is essential to modern life. The promise of broadband is transformative: users can access distance learning, find jobs, and advocate for community change.
Yet today, for too many Americans, obtaining a useful connection requires a trip to the public library or local fast food outlet. That’s because the U.S. lags behind much of the world in affordable broadband penetration. As the Economist notes, “America unwisely has no ‘common carriage, allowing for Internet service providers to rent cable companies pipes and compete on price and speed. Already Americans pay far more than people in other rich countries for slower Internet.”
Common Cause is fighting to connect all Americans to affordable broadband by pushing back against harmful mergers and advancing Lifeline modernization.
Last year the FCC took an important step by expanding the Ronald Reagan-era Lifeline phone subsidy program to include broadband Internet. Broadband access is essential to help citizens move out of poverty, find a job, obtain health care, social services, and an education. Access to broadband also supports a more better-informed electorate, a responsive government, and enhanced civic engagement.
Recent opposition to Lifeline in Congress would limit the availability of Lifeline Broadband and underscores that more pressure is required to implement what the United Nations has called “a basic human right.”