A lack of computer and internet skills – now more than ever – can be a barrier to receiving a good education or obtaining a good-paying, family- supporting job in Wisconsin and across the country.
Because of the increased emphasis on the Internet for communication and research, it’s essential that we – as a nation – do everything in our power to ensure that highspeed, broadband internet access is available from coast-to-coast, in every corner of the country, and particularly in urban and minority areas.
But the continued expansion of broadband internet is very much in jeopardy as Congress and decision makers in Washington debate new so-called “net neutrality” rules.
“Net neutrality” refers to the idea that there should be no restrictions on web content or access – which in and of itself doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
But the whole idea behind “net neutrality” is a solution in search of a problem. Everyone, including us, supports an open Internet, but the rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission do more harm than good and will actually strangle the Internet. If there’s a problem, and that’s a big if, this isn’t the solution.
New internet technologies are being rapidly developed, online content is more expansive than ever, and more and more people are connecting to the internet – particularly wirelessly – every day.
This is especially true of African Americans, nearly half of whom use mobile devices, compared to the national average of just 32 percent. Impoverished areas are also enjoying a rapid increase in the adoption of broadband internet, with a 34 percent growth rate from 2008 to 2009 among households with less than $30,000 in annual income.
This is – in part – due to a healthy level of competition among internet providers and wireless companies, resulting in better services and more affordable prices for lower income families.
These trends are good for urban and minority areas of the country like Milwaukee. The faster broadband internet is adopted in inner-city areas, the more adults and children will have the opportunity to gain the computer and internet skills necessary to compete in the job market.
But if new “net neutrality” rules were to pass, and unnecessary regulations were placed on internet providers, the result would be a dramatic slow-down in the expansion of broadband infrastructure. Prices would also likely rise, making it increasingly harder for urban citizens to gain access to and afford high-speed internet services.
Given the tough economic times we live in, we need to be encouraging broadband access and lower prices – not fighting against them.
The system of internet regulation is working as it should, and the expansion of internet services is growing at a healthy pace. It’s critically important – now more than ever – that those in Washington allow this progress to continue, rather than grinding it to a halt with unnecessary “net neutrality” regulations.