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America, our internet stinks. And it’s time to try a different approach to fix it.
Millions of Americans do not have modern Internet service. It’s a symptom of our internet dysfunction that we don’t even know how many there are. The unreliable number from internet providers is 14.5 million households. Or maybe 157 million people. Even for those with reliable access, Americans generally pay more for poor internet service than our counterparts in most other rich countries.
The White House’s new infrastructure plan includes a $ 100 billion proposal to extend fast internet access to every home. Its central premise is a powerful one: To get the Internet we all deserve, the federal government has to be more involved – but not too much.
The Biden administration’s plans lack details, and a large spending bill will be difficult to pass. But let me explain why the White House plan could be the change we need.
First, how does it work now:
We currently have the worst aspects of free-market capitalism and over-government government. Taxpayers’ money is poured into internet services, but this money is often spent on my own. A system that promises lightweight regulation actually has many rules – often discouraged by companies protecting their interests – but these regulations are often misinterpreted or poorly enforced.
The government now delegates a lot of money and powers to internet companies. As a result, Americans are spending more than many billions of dollars each year helping build internet networks in places like rural towns and subsidizing the cost of services to schools, libraries, and households.
But these funds often help maintain the AOL-era internet pipeline. And the money is spent on the short term solutions. For example, schools get help paying internet providers for Wi-Fi hotspots when they want fast internet pipes they control.
“That doesn’t mean the investments don’t attract the online community. They do, ”said Kathryn de Wit, the Pew Charity’s internet access project manager. However, she told me, “It is time for the federal government to play a more active role.”
What’s in the White House internet plan:
The administration this week has set high-level targets: High-quality internet pipes will reach every home in America soon. Taxpayers’ money shouldn’t help fund obsolete internet technology. And we should pay less for internet service.
Those principles sound simple but revolutionary. The plan is essentially a statement that what we are doing is currently not working, and that the government should not sit idly by and let the system go on.
As de Wit told me, the role of government is to get everyone involved in laser internet focused on one mission: Build fast, 21st-century internet pipelines to move forward. reach everyone and make sure that the public, not the internet companies. the first and last word on our internet system.
When should the federal government stay away from:
The Biden administration sets principles, but proposes leaving room for communities, states, and companies to come up with appropriate internet policies and technologies built for their needs.
My colleague, Cecilia Kang this week wrote about community activists in Maryland, who cheated on a system of antennas and routers to provide internet service to low-income families. . The White House wants to support more community-based internet providers like that network, as well as government-affiliated networks like the one in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The White House’s support for alternative internet providers is a message that big internet companies like Comcast and AT&T may be part of the solution, but they are not the only answer. It’s no surprise that the big internet companies are not enthusiastically accepting the Biden plan.
A commercial group representing Comcast and others said that the US internet plumbing is working well and that the government should not micro-manage internet networks or favor government-owned ones. Here are more about why internet providers are not satisfied.
Challenges and opportunities ahead:
I don’t want to downplay the difficulties of fixing the US internet system. It will be difficult to build an internet network that reaches all Americans, especially in sparsely populated areas. It is not clear how the White House plans to provide affordable service to everyone.
But let me highlight something interesting about the White House plan. It identifies the right thing, claims a worthy mission and requires fewer barriers to connect the best of government with the best of capitalism.
If the White House plan works, our internet system could be both less expensive and more efficient for all of us.
Before we go …
What happens when complexity gets destroyed online: Facebook and Instagram are fertile ground for the terrifying, often misleading information about the Covid-19 vaccine. This Bloomberg News article delves into why, including how apps reward people for stirring people’s anxiety and the difficulty of delivering medical facts that attract online. .
Our data mining companies do so many, so much lobby: Markup reports that 25 relatively unknown companies that monetize our personal information gathering have spent a total of $ 29 million on federal lobbying. One of them, Oracle, spent $ 9.6 million – more than Google, a much bigger figure.
TJ Maxx, but from Amazon? Before the pandemic, Amazon discussed the possibility of opening discount stores to clear inventory of backlogged goods such as home appliances and electronics, Bloomberg News reported. I’m not sure why Amazon needs stores to do this instead of… uhhhh, just selling discounted stuff on its giant website.
This is a story about a stray dog trying to steal a stuffed unicorn toy from a dollar store. Sisu is a very good dog. The people who rescued him were also good.
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