An excerpt from a lengthy essay about the possibility that broadband Internet access should be a civil right
A substantial fraction of Americans now lack access to this modern necessity. In October 2009, a Department of Commerce survey found that a little over one-third of households did not use a broadband service. Sometimes this is by choice, but often it’s because of cost. In one survey, people told the FCC they paid an average of almost $41 per month for broadband, but that can vary widely; as a rule, broadband is more expensive in rural areas, some of which don’t have the relevant infrastructure at all. Usage figures correlate strongly with income, the Department of Commerce found: Households with family incomes above $50,000 overwhelmingly have broadband, but it’s far less common for lower-income people. The numbers also differ by race. Only about 45 percent of African-Americans, and an even lower percentage of Hispanics, use broadband at home.
Given how important the online world is to so many aspects of 21st-century life, when many observers look at Americans without broadband, they see a group of people who are slowly being excluded from society. Without it, says Benjamin Lennett, a policy analyst at the Wireless Futures program at the New American Foundation, “You’re simply not going to be able to have equal standing in society. You’re simply going to be left out.”