Who Really Wants Broadband?

Douglas A. McIntyre

The FCC has argued to Congress and the public that the US is well behind most of the rest of the civilized world in terms of its distribution of broadband and the speed of online connections.

The agency issued a 376 page proposal called the National Broadband plan and then its chairman Julius Genachowski went up to Capitol Hill to pitch and defend it. The FCC wants money for the program at a time when some members of Congress believe that the country has no money to spare

It is still not entirely clear what the programs to speed up broadband and make it universally available in the US will cost. It depends on whether “universal” means every man, woman, and child in remote areas like Wyoming and Alaska. It also depends on how fast the connection speeds are to reach these people and the rest of America.

The FCC wants at least 100 million households to have broadband by 2020. The connection speed to these home would be 100 megabits a second. Most cable and telecom broadband subscribers do not have connections anywhere near that fast.

The FCC listed a number of reasons that people do not have broadband. Many do not live where it is available. Others cannot afford it. The most interesting group is people who do not want it at all. They see no utility to the internet.

The last group raises the question of whether most Americans want a faster broadband connection, especially if it costs them money. While some people do not want broadband at all, it may be that many others don’t care about super fast connections. For the typical consumer, there may be no utility to a system which allows them to download high-definition films in a few minutes. Those consumers may just as will buy a high-definition DVD through NetFlix.

The federal government is forever spending money on things that its citizens do not want whether it is faster trains or faster broadband. It might be a good way to save money to ask people what they really need, a job or an internet connection.

Douglas A. McIntyre