Access to high-speed Internet service — also known as broadband — is a basic public necessity, just like water or electricity.
Yet despite its importance, broadband access in the United States is far from universal. Millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the "digital divide," unable to tap into the political, economic and social resources of the Internet.
A 2013 survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that just 70 percent of Americans age 18 and up have high-speed Internet access at home. Pew noted that age, education and household income are the strongest predictors for home broadband adoption.
And Americans who do have broadband connections pay more and get less than residents of most other developed nations. Survey after survey shows U.S. broadband quality, speed and adoption rates falling dangerously behind that of countries in Asia and Europe.
This is unacceptable in our digital age, when getting all Americans connected to an open, fast and affordable Internet should be a national priority.
Broken policies in Washington have made it easier for phone and cable companies to charge more and more for high-speed Internet access — and to refuse to connect underserved communities. Meanwhile, several state legislatures, bowing to pressure from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and their friends, have outlawed community-owned networks that would offer affordable, world-class Internet to hundreds of thousands of people. The result? More people are stuck with high prices, limited choices and slow — or nonexistent — Internet service.
Whether Americans are able to reap the benefits of broadband — and whether they enjoy a choice of providers, speeds and prices — depends largely on policy decisions made in Washington.