Although the Federal Communication Commission’s implementation of Net Neutrality has earned a largely positive response, some were concerned that the move could cause Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to reduce their infrastructure spending. For Americans still waiting for their chance for broadband access, that’s bad news.

 

Is the FCC to blame?

On September 9, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at an American Enterprise Institute discussion regarding broadband infrastructure investment. According to Pai, ISP infrastructure spending fell 12 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014. And Pai blames the reduction in spending directly on Net Neutrality, “It’s the FCC’s decision to capitulate to the President’s demands and impose Title II public utility regulation upon the Internet that is playing a large role.”

Why would an FCC commissioner criticize FCC policy? A five-member commission leads the FCC, and when the organization passed its Net Neutrality policy, it did so by a 3-2 vote. Pai was one of the two commissioners who voted against the measure, so his stance isn’t a reversal: he’s been against Net Neutrality from the beginning and warned of consequences including less innovation and more cost for consumers.

Pai isn’t the only person in a position of power within the government who feels this way. During a hearing titled “Common Carrier Regulation of the Internet: Investment Impacts,” , chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, expressed his concerns that, though ISPs may continue to invest in broadband improvements, that investment may plateau or decline over time.

 

Is spending bouncing back?

Some evidence suggests that infrastructure spending may be increasing, not decreasing. Time Warner Cable spent an additional 10.1 percent on infrastructure from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015, and AT&T’s spending was also up slightly.

 

Is it just politics?

It’s worth noting that FCC Commissioner Pai and Congressman Walden are Republicans, and Net Neutrality is largely popular among Democrats, including President Obama. This political divide doesn’t automatically make one side right and one side wrong, but it does explain some of the disagreement.

Is it possible that both sets of numbers are correct, and that spending was down for the first half of the year, but up overall after three quarters? Sure. If so, it may be because the FCC voted for Net Neutrality in February, but the rules didn’t go into effect until the end of June. The industry could have been watching and waiting, as AT&T said it would, to see how Net Neutrality played out before committing a significant amount of money to its infrastructure.

But as Congressman Walden pointed out, ISPs aren’t going to stop investing in infrastructure entirely. The only question is whether they would have spent even more in the absence of a Net Neutrality policy.

 

How’s your broadband infrastructure?

America’s broadband infrastructure as a whole is important to everyone, but what should matter most to you is what it looks like in your area. The best way to see the whole picture is to enter your ZIP code below to compare the speeds and prices of the plans available in your area. You may be able to find a faster plan, even if your overall investment in broadband goes down.

 

You’ve heard the rumors. Providers brag about lightning fast speeds, and streaming in HD without a whisper of latency. But where is this miraculous Internet service of your dreams? One that will allow you to live a fantasy digital life in the wonder of the cloud. The lone Internet Service Provider (ISP) provider in your area seems to bog down at the first sign of traffic, and if tech support tells you to reboot your modem one more time, you’re going to scream. Why isn’t there more choice and competition among Internet providers in your area? This isn’t an isolated issue. Most regions of the country are serviced by just a handful of big name broadband providers. Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable have massive footprints that loom over an inordinately large part of the map. When the FCC was considering approving a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable back in 2015, The Huffington Post warned that we would be facing “The United States of Comcast”. Today’s ISP map isn’t too far off that assessment, with four major ISPs eating up tremendous slices of the high-speed Internet market. Statistics from the FCC indicate nearly 30 percent of Americans don’t have a choice when it comes to their Internet provider. Another large portion of the public, which estimates place at 37 percent, only have two options. To get a better handle on what Internet service across the United States looks like, visit the National Broadband Map, maintained by the FCC and the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration). How did we end up here, with limited choice and virtually no competition in large swathes of the United States? To answer that, you’ll need to understand how the Internet reaches your home. It’s a complicated digital exchange through a labyrinth of networks and providers that you’ve likely never heard of. Follow me down the rabbit hole for a minute, my friend and I promise you’ll emerge a savvier Internet consumer.  

How does the Internet get to your home?

Unlike the claims of some politicians, the Internet does not reach you through a series of tubes. It begins on the global level through a Tier 1 network– cable wires that cross continents and oceans, conveying digital pulses of light. Chances are, these do not belong to your local ISP. Much of this major infrastructure is owned by global companies like AT&T who then lease usage of those Internet pipelines to Tier 2 providers. Tier 2 providers are the major telecommunications companies across the nation that bring Internet from the global pipelines into metro and regional areas. Providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox pay for transit on these uber fast global lines. Gizmodo gives a more detailed explanation of  Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers for those who might be interested in tracing the convoluted digital handshakes that transmit data from one part of the world to another. Much of the Internet delivered through Tier 2 providers is in fact broadband or DSL because that infrastructure already exists, humming below the ground and delivering your cable TV and phone service. Where your Internet bogs down and service slows is when data passes from these neighborhood hubs into your home. The telecommunications industry refers to this as “the last mile”. Much of this last bit of signal transmission is across ancient lines that have deteriorated over time and no longer support the speeds modern technology requires. Upgrading this piece of the infrastructure is the final challenge in ensuring high-speed Internet reaches every corner of the country, and it’s one of the big reasons there are isolated pockets of only one or two Internet service providers in large areas of the United States.  

Expensive Infrastructure

Upgrading that last mile of Internet infrastructure is a costly endeavor. While the utility poles are public property, the lines and wires are owned by specific companies that may have traded hands dozens of times over the years. If you are receiving DSL Internet, that technology comes into your home on ancient copper phone lines. These are likely the same lines installed nearly a hundred years ago when Alexander Graham Bell first invented the telephone. If you receive broadband internet, your home was likely wired to receive cable TV sometime between the 50’s and the 80’s. Because cable technology is more advanced, Internet via broadband delivers higher speeds. Neither technology approaches the capabilities of fiber-optic, however. The difficulty becomes the cost. DSL and Cable Internet providers utilize existing lines, sometimes paying to lease them from the original companies that still own them. Fiber-optic providers have to start fresh, absorbing the cost of running new lines and connecting each household to the larger network. Once they’ve made this investment, they’ll have to lure away a significant amount of the high speed Internet customers in that area to turn a profit. Cable and DSL providers will often simply undercut the new kid on the block by promoting package deals and bundles that price the fledgling company right out of the market.  

Regional Franchises

To further complicate the matter, there are some legislative actions that have encouraged the sparsity of providers. The 1984 Cable Communications Policy Act allowed cable service to be determined by each municipality. This resulted in a patchwork of regional providers that made cost-effective deals with certain cities, allowing them to control local pockets of service almost exclusively. During the 90’s consolidation of these markets began in earnest. It was more cost effective for smaller companies to merge and create larger entities that could cover a larger area of service. The Wall Street Journal documented how, in a matter of two decades, 40 regional providers coalesced into just four telecommunications giants. At that juncture, the Internet was still a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye, but the cable wires that would deliver broadband all across the nation were already in the hands of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, and Cox.

A Natural Monopoly

It has been a perfect storm of expensive infrastructure, legislation, and growing media conglomerates that have resulted in what many industry experts refer to as a natural monopoly. Prohibitive costs and a consolidated network of providers effectively controls the market, making it virtually impossible to foster the healthy competition necessary to ensure better service and reduced costs for the average consumer. Many have argued that to bring cost-effective, high-speed Internet to more Americans, the government will have to intervene not only to incentivize innovation but also to help smaller companies make the necessary investments in infrastructure.   “The great danger to the consumer is the monopoly — whether private or governmental. His most effective protection is free competition at home and free trade throughout the world. The consumer is protected from being exploited by one seller by the existence of another seller from whom he can buy and who is eager to sell to him. Alternative sources of supply protect the consumer far more effectively than all the Ralph Naders of the world.” Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist   Frustrated with your provider and looking to make a change? Use our high-speed Internet provider tool to see a list of providers in your area, compare packages side by side, read real customer reviews, and decide which provider is the right one for you.   [zipfinder] Cox® is one of the leading providers of Internet service and for good reason — the company provides a wide range of High Speed Internet packages with a long list of added features. Whether you’re a casual web surfer or serious Internet user, there’s a  suited for everyone.  

The Benefits of Cable Internet

Cable Internet is the ideal Internet option for many users. Unlike dial-up,  is always connected and isn’t prone to spontaneous disconnections. While it won’t beat the speeds of fiber-optic Internet, cable Internet is significantly faster than DSL or satellite Internet. In terms of pricing, you’ll spend more than you would on DSL, but less than for fiber-optic.  

What Cable Internet Packages Does Cox Offer?

Cox’s advertised cable Internet plans start at $36.99 per month for 12 months with the Essential package, which includes speeds of up to 15 Mbps for downloads and 2 Mbps for uploads. Although this is the cheapest advertised package, it’s not necessarily the best choice for users who stream and download large files, or for households with multiple users. At $54.99 per month for 12 months, the Preferred Internet package is just $18 more for over three times the downloading speed — 50 Mbps, plus 5 Mbps for uploads. This speed is typically sufficient for most households, as you can upload and download large files, stream movies and music, and play online games. If you’re a heavier Internet user or have a large household using the same Internet connection, Cox also offers a Premier package — 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speed for just $64.99 per month for 12 months — and an Ultimate package — 150 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speed for just $69.99 per month for 12 months. As you can see, you get significantly more Internet for minimal price increases.  

What Are the Free Benefits of Cox Internet Packages?

All Cox High Speed Internet™ customers receive a premium version of the McAfee® Security Suite, providing anti-spam software, identity protection, and firewall coverage for as many as five devices in your home. Customers who have the Preferred or Premier Internet packages also receive PowerBoost™ for free. This proprietary technology offers a short burst of added speed when downloading large files. Preferred customers can expect to see a , and Premier customers can anticipate a 25 percent boost. Other free features include up to 10 email addresses and online Cloud storage space.  

What Cox Internet Package Is Right for Me?

When it comes to Internet, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all package, which can make the decision challenging for many customers. As much as you want cheap Internet, you don’t want to experience lags. On the other hand, you also don’t want to pay for excessive speed or bandwidth that you don’t need. The best way to determine what Cox Internet package is right for you is to determine how much Internet you need. Use an Internet speed survey to evaluate your speed needs. From there, you can select a package from Cox, or from another Internet provider if Cox service isn’t available in your area.   *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

When you think of high-speed, affordable Internet, you’re usually thinking of cable Internet. Using a coaxial connection, data is transmitted over a cable-based network, making this connection type faster and more reliable than DSL. And while you may not get quite the speed capacity of fiber Internet, cable Internet is typically much less expensive.

Although not as well-known as some of the bigger names in the cable industry, Charter Spectrum provides reliable Internet to more than 6 million customers in 28 states. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at Charter Spectrum’s fast and affordable Internet service.  

One Speed, One Option

Unlike most other Internet providers, Charter Spectrum advertises only one stand-alone Internet package — a plan with speeds up to 60 Mbps at $39.99 per month for 12 months. This one-tier approach may turn off some consumers, but it’s designed to provide fast Internet to all subscribers for one low monthly price. At this speed, multiple users can rely on the same connection to listen to music, stream videos, and download files. Despite being more expensive than several other companies’ basic Internet packages, Charter Spectrum’s Internet service provides several perks. In addition to receiving fast Internet, subscribers get free online protection through Charter’s Security Suite, which includes real-time protection against spyware and viruses, a secure firewall, and more. Charter Spectrum Internet™ plans also provide free access to EPIX online content and a free Internet modem, meaning you can save between $6 and $10 per month on equipment rentals.  

What’s the Best Package Deal from Charter Spectrum?

While the $39.99 package is the cheapest Internet-only option from Charter Spectrum, it isn’t necessarily the best for every situation. Most users find that bundled plans provide better prices and more expansive services than individual packages. When you bundle with other options, the price of Internet drops down to $29.99 — saving subscribers around 25 percent each month. If you need a phone line in addition to your network connection, for example, you’ll pay $29.99 for Internet and $19.99 for Charter Spectrum Voice™  monthly for 12 months. If you are looking to bundle Internet with Charter Spectrum TV™ instead, packages start at $89.98 per month for 12 months. That breaks down to $59.99 for cable — including more than 125 channels, free HD service, and access to more than 10,000 On Demand choices — and $29.99 for Internet. For an even larger package combining TV, Internet, and Voice, the best deal is the Charter Spectrum™ Triple Play Gold package. At just $40 more per month than the above-mentioned TV and Internet plan, the Triple Play Gold package provides 60 Mbps Internet, unlimited nationwide calling, more than 200 cable TV channels, popular premium channels — including HBO®, Cinemax®, Showtime®, Starz®, and others — and HD and DVR service.   Although Charter Spectrum advertises only one stand-alone cable Internet package, the company’s bundled deals will help you save on your monthly costs for a wide range of services. As you evaluate Charter Spectrum’s offerings, check to see which package offers the features you need, rather than choosing based on price alone. If service isn’t currently available to your home, search for another Internet provider that offers the plans you need.   *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. Streamable video content, like that offered through Hulu and Netflix, continues to rise in popularity. According to a new study from Forrester, by 2025, half of consumers younger than age 32 won’t pay for a cable subscription. These “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers” want their shows and channels whenever and wherever they are. However, that doesn’t mean cable is on its deathbed — far from it. Plenty of consumers augment their streaming services with traditional cable packages. XFINITY® makes it especially easy to bundle Internet services with TV plans, allowing customers to experience the best that cable programming and streaming services have to offer. For those unsure as to which option best fits their viewing tendencies, this guide offers a succinct comparison between XFINITY TV and streaming service options.   Streaming Services   Pros: Streaming services have their fair share of advantages. The most prominent benefit is price. Some streaming options, like Netflix and Hulu, are much more cost-effective than basic cable packages — running anywhere from $8 to $15 per month. Sling TV is slightly more expensive, starting at $20 per month, but it also offers total access to around 20 basic cable channels. Beyond the fact that individual streaming services cost less than cable, cancellation fees aren’t a part of the equation. Consumers aren’t subject to the same terms and conditions found with cable. There are no contracts, simply subscriptions. Users can purchase and cancel their accounts when and if they wish. Streaming also offers high levels of convenience, allowing users access to shows wherever they have Internet. And with new devices like the Google Chromecast, users aren’t confined to streaming on small screens, either — they can easily broadcast streamed media from their connected device onto any screen with an HDMI input.   Cons: Streaming services don’t offer as much variety as cable — there isn’t a one-to-one exchange in terms of shows and channel lineups. For consumers who want regular access to sports channels or have to know who wore what to the Oscars, that lack of access can be a deal breaker. Additionally, streaming video relies on an Internet connection. For subscribers enrolled in a slower DSL service — or even a lower tier cable Internet package — viewing capabilities may be limited. If the Internet connection can’t handle the load, the show quality will deteriorate. Finally, users may be somewhat restricted by the device they use to stream or broadcast content. Apple TV’s apps are limited, and Chromecast only works via the connected device. If kids want to watch Saturday morning cartoons but don’t have access to the requisite app or device, they’re out of luck.   XFINITY Cable Television   Pros: XFINITY features a robust channel lineup, showcasing one of the greatest benefits of cable TV packages: channel selection. Cable customers have access to more shows and dedicated channels like ESPN and HGTV. Another advantage is that cable subscribers can somewhat customize the package they want. Premium channels like HBO® are add-ons to the more basic packages. While it’s not quite comparable to the a la carte options recently developed in Canada, U.S. customers can opt out of certain packages, thereby saving money on their monthly bill. For those interested in mobile viewing opportunities, XFINITY has an additional benefit — many channels offer cable subscribers remote streaming options via app or Internet connection. Customers just need their XFINITY username and password to access live content from a host of channels. If price is a deterrent, subscribers can also bundle XFINITY TV with Internet and other services. This can save a substantial amount of money. It’s also convenient, as users have to pay only one bill, instead of dealing with two or three separate statements every month.   Cons: Certain XFINITY plans do require contracts, which means that there may be an associated fee for early termination. Other costs, such as equipment rental expenses, may also be included. In addition, some package pricing can be confusing. Many plans feature a low introductory rate that expires after a certain length of time, leaving subscribers with higher bills than they originally planned for.   The Verdict   When it comes to accessing TV and video today, it’s a buyer’s market. The cable industry’s efforts to keep pace with streaming services has given consumers a wide range of options. For those ready to cut the cord, XFINITY offers reliable standalone Internet services, with some areas seeing speeds up to 2 Gbps. These faster speeds will ensure consistent streaming and a better viewing experience across all devices. Viewing doesn’t have to be all or nothing, though. Consumers who can’t access their favorite local news program via streaming services may want to augment their current Netflix subscription with a basic cable plan, for example. In that case, XFINITY has competitive bundling packages for Internet and TV, allowing subscribers to leverage the advantages of both options. In order to choose the service that’s right for them, consumers should consider the pros and cons of both options carefully. Once they’ve analyzed their viewing habits, they can find the XFINITY service package that fits their needs exactly.   *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. Are you on the hunt for a cheaper Internet Service Provider (ISP)? If you aren’t, you should be. Internet is a necessity in the modern American home, and it’s a service that many consider a basic human right in this day and age. The U.S., however, is not known for great data prices. In fact, the U.S. has been lagging behind the rest of the globe on Internet speeds for several years now. CNN even dubbed America the “Bastion of mediocre Internet speeds.” But even if you can’t get a world-class deal on Internet service, you may still be able to save by switching plans or providers.   Where Do I Start? As Internet costs continue to rise in the wireless era, you should be searching for the most reasonable price based on where you live. Your ZIP code matters. The Cost of Connectivity report from the Open Technology Institute recently studied the cost and speed of Internet in 24 cities around the world. The organization found that for a plan up to 50 Mbps, you’ll pay under $50 a month in Kansas City, whereas in Los Angeles, you’ll pay near $70 for that same plan. If you’re researching lower-cost ISPs available in your area, you should be able to find a few different options. Although some areas are dominated by a single provider, there are often a lot of smaller providers available that you may not be aware of — and they’re likely offering cheaper service plans. Switching ISPs — or even just switching your plan — could save you quite a bit.   What Factors Affect Provider and Plan Costs? Internet prices vary depending on a variety of options. Here are some of the biggest factors to look at before deciding on a plan.
  1. ISP Type
DSL, cable, fiber-optic, and satellite Internet vary in cost and availability. Generally, cable offers the most expensive plans, while DSL offers significantly cheaper options. Satellite is a great option for rural subscribers, while fiber-optic Internet is available only in select cities. You’ll have more luck finding a cheaper plan if you go with an ISP type that has an established infrastructure in your area.
  1. Downstream Speed Options
If your Internet needs are simpler and you don’t stream videos or share files, you can save by choosing an ISP that offers slower plans. Plans that offer speeds up to 10 Mbps will end up costing significantly less than those advertising speeds of 100 Mbps or more, so don’t pay for more than what you need.
  1. Bundled Packages
Bundled Internet packages that combine your TV and home phone services can equal big savings. Factor in all of your communication and entertainment needs when you’re searching for a provider.
  1. Equipment Fees
Pay attention to any required equipment fees with potential ISPs. Some providers will waive equipment costs for certain plans, and you may also be able to avoid fees by purchasing your own equipment.
  1. Contract Length
Many providers offer discounted services to customers willing to sign a longer contract. However, you’ll have more room for negotiations with current and potential ISPs if you aren’t locked into a service agreement. Weigh the pros and cons of these two options carefully.
  1. Promotional Offers
Take advantage of ISP promotional offers, including low introductory rates. Don’t hesitate to haggle with your provider, either. Many ISPs will drop costs rather than lose a paying customer.
  1. Fine Print
Read the fine print to discover if you could save by installing your own modem or performing repairs by yourself. Additionally, take the time to understand any contractual obligations — some ISPs have hefty cancellation fees if you break your agreement before the term is up. Regardless of where you fall on the Internet-use spectrum, you don’t have to settle with your current monthly Internet costs. Take some time to explore other local plan and provider options. To easily search nearby providers, check out this Internet provider guide, which lists ISPs based on your ZIP code, compares providers side-by-side, and includes customer reviews.

The HighSpeedInternet.com team recently surveyed 5,000 Americans via Google Consumer Surveys and asked people whether they would rather give up Internet or other valued items (such as sex, coffee, alcohol, family, or pets) for 6 months.

Here’s what we found…

Question: Which would you rather give up for 6 months? Internet or “physical intimacy”?

One Third of Americans Would Rather Have Internet than Sex

internet or sex - general

 67.5% of respondents would give up Internet over sex.

Nearly 70% of surveyed Americans would give up Internet in order to keep their love life in check; however, this also means that over 30% would choose Internet over sex for half a year!  

Millennials Seem to Care Less About Sex Than Their Parents Do

Give up sex - age breakdown

48.4% of respondents ages 18-24 would give up sex before they would give up Internet.

Nearly 50% of those ages 18-24 surveyed said they would rather give up sex than Internet. Whereas just under 30% of those ages 45-64 would give up sex for Internet, revealing that baby boomers seem to value sex more than the college-age people we surveyed.  

Question: Which would you rather give up for 6 months? Internet or drinking coffee?

80% of Americans Would Give Up Coffee to Keep Their Internet

internet or coffee - general

80% of respondents would give up drinking coffee to keep their Internet.

It turns out exactly 4 out of 5 Americans we surveyed would choose Internet over coffee any day, but the older the person surveyed, the more likely they were to choose their beloved cup of Joe over Internet… Give up the Internet - age breakdown

 28% of respondents ages 65 and older would give up Internet before quitting coffee.

So it seems college-age Americans may not be as addicted to their lattes as much as we might have assumed.  

Question: Which would you rather give for 6 months? Internet or drinking alcohol?

Over 80% of Americans Would Give Up Alcohol to Keep Their Internet

internet or alcohol - general

 83.4% of respondents would give up drinking alcohol before giving up Internet.

It looks like Americans tend to be more willing to give up alcohol over coffee in order to keep their Internet. And it seems American women are more willing to pass on alcohol than men in order to keep their Internet.  

1 out of 4 Men Would Give Up Internet for Alcohol

Give up drinking alcohol - gender breakdown

 86.7% of women would give up alcohol for Internet, while 79.9% of men would go without alcohol to keep their Internet.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise to many that men would choose alcohol over Internet more often than women would.  

Question: Which would you rather give up for 6 months? Internet or seeing family?

Family Time is Valued Over Sex

internet or family - general

 83.7% of respondents would give up Internet in order to see their family.

We were pleased to see that over 80% of respondents chose seeing their family over Internet. But we also learned that over a quarter of the 18-24 age group would give up seeing their family for 6 months in order to keep their Internet… Give up seeing family - age breakdown

 26.1% of respondents ages 18-24 would give up seeing family in exchange for Internet access.

And it was no surprise that the 65 and older group were least likely to give up seeing family for Internet.  

Question: Which would you rather give for 6 months? Internet or seeing your pet?

Still Man’s Best Friend

internet or pets - general

 Respondents with pets were overwhelmingly willing to skip out on Internet in order to see their pet(s).

We also learned that those surveyed with pets were much more willing to give up Internet in order to keep seeing their pet(s).  

Millennials Love Pets the Most

Give up the Internet - age breakdown

 45.6% of respondents ages 18-24 were willing to give up Internet to see their pet(s).

And nearly half of our 18-24 age group would give up Internet to see their pets, but under 30% of those over 65 would be willing to do the same.

In sum, Americans seem to believe sex is better than Internet access, but the Internet is not quite as important than martinis or lattes. And family time and pets trump Internet access, too. You’re welcome to share our findings as long as credit is given to HighSpeedInternet.com. If you’d like access to our raw data, please email press@highspeedinternet.com. Libraries have always been synonymous with free books, but it seems they’re also becoming a hub for those looking for free Internet access. The Pew Research Center found 77 percent of Americans without Internet access depend on Libraries to get online. Has sustaining Internet access at libraries become just as important as stocking them with books? The Internet is a Necessity There’s no arguing the impact books have on education. They’re magnificent tools for learning, but these days you can download most of them online. However, it turns out print editions are still preferred over eBooks by the general population. On the other hand, the Internet is required for many aspects of daily life. People need Internet access to perform tasks like applying to jobs, printing resumes, communicating with family and friends, and performing duties for work. In fact, over 55 percent of retail stores require applicants to fill out applications online. And if you aren’t of working age yet, you’re probably in school and 96 percent of teachers say they assign homework that requires Internet access. According to public surveys, 80 percent of Americans believe providing books to the community is a very important function of libraries, while 77 percent feel free Internet access in libraries also qualifies as very important. Regardless, 95 percent feel that providing Internet holds at least some significance. Access is Widespread, But Still Limited Across the nation, 99 percent of public libraries now offer Internet access to their communities. That may seem like a high number, but it only covers public libraries where access is available on at least one station, not necessarily on enough to fulfill community needs. Over 65 percent of those libraries report not having enough workstations available to meet patrons’ needs during the day. This problem continues to surge as libraries report a 60 percent rise public Internet consumption. Some areas are working on increasing access. In New York, for example, libraries are experimenting with the idea of loaning out high-speed hotspots to patrons. Rather than checking out a book, you’ll take home a Wi-Fi device with an unlimited data plan. In places like New York, where an estimated 55 percent of library Internet users do not have broadband access at home, this could help them acquire greater digital literacy. The government is also stepping up efforts to promote an upturn in Internet access. The Federal Communications Commission increased five-year spending on the E-Rate plan, the program designed to give school and public libraries free Internet access equal to businesses and residents, from $12 billion to over $20 billion. These efforts are necessary to help rural and low-income families keep up with the growing pace of technology and Internet-related jobs. Without access to the Internet it will become nearly impossible for them to sustain a career or acquire a decent education. Luckily, there seems to be more than enough room in the world for both books and computer workstations. Libraries across the nation are increasing their efforts to provide Internet access to local residents as it becomes a basic necessity in life. It’ll be interesting to see, as eBooks continue to gain in prominence, whether or not computer stations will begin to appear in place of bookshelves. Photo Credit: Miguel M. Almeida/Flikr President Obama spoke in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in January about the need to improve America’s access to high-speed Internet. He didn’t choose this location by accident: Cedar Falls, home to the University of Northern Iowa, is one of a growing number of American communities that built its own gigabit fiber network. One reason Cedar Falls was able to build this network is that, while 19 states have laws that make it difficult or even illegal to build municipal networks, Iowa isn’t one of them. As part of his plan, the president wants to use the FCC to strike down these state laws, giving more freedom to municipalities. Naturally, many state governments that have passed these laws won’t be happy. In general, these states passed these laws not because they themselves want to control Internet access; they’d prefer government stay out of the network-building business altogether, and leave it to the private sector. Thus, the president’s proposal pits the cities and federal government against the states. As the debate unfolds, how will each side argue its case? Preemption Even the FCC isn’t sure they have the power to overturn these state laws. Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler believes it does, while FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said, “US Supreme Court precedent makes clear that the commission has no authority to pre-empt state restrictions on municipal broadband projects.” Preemption refers to the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution, which makes that document the supreme law of the land. The idea behind preemption is that there’s not much point to preventing the federal government from quartering troops in your house if the states can. And just as federal laws preempt state laws, state laws preempt municipal laws. The big “but” regarding federal preemption is the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which says powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. The states with laws against municipal networks are likely to argue that it’s the 10th Amendment that gives them the power to enact these laws. The Commerce Clause Article One, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution is commonly called the “Commerce Clause” because it grants the federal government the right to regulate interstate commerce. The Communications Act of 1934 established the FCC to oversee interstate radio, phone, and later TV broadcasts. The Telecommunications act of 1996 added the Internet to the FCC’s purview. So there’s no question that the federal government has the right to oversee and regulate the Internet as it relates to interstate commerce. President Obama has urged the FCC to treat the Internet as any other utility it has the power to regulate, and it looks as if the commission may do just that. Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board, creator of that city’s municipal gigabit network, and the city of Wilson, NC, have already petitioned the FCC to strike down state laws prohibiting municipal networks. If the FCC does so, there’s a chance those states will attempt to defend their laws by suing the FCC. It’s All About Interpretation The states that argue against federal preemption will claim that while the FCC does have the power to regulate the Internet, it doesn’t have the power to regulate this particular issue. Even states without laws against municipal networks may side with states that do, filing “friend of the court” briefs that support the general concept of preserving states’ rights. A big part of the debate will be whether creation of a municipal network is interstate or intrastate commerce. At first glance, it might sound like intrastate, but because constitutional law is complicated, commerce that takes place purely within one state may still be considered interstate commerce if it affects overall supply and demand of the interstate market. In other words, if you buy your Internet plan from a municipal provider, you won’t buy it from a corporation operating across state lines. Which Side Will Win? Predicting the future is a lot harder than looking at past precedent. What’s your guess? Based on the law, should states have the right to prevent municipal governments from competing with the private sector, or should those municipalities be able to provide Internet access the same way they provide access to existing public utilities? Whether or not your city builds its own network, you still have a choice when it comes to finding the connection plan that suits you best. So while the cities, states, and federal government fight it out, take matters into your own hands and see what’s available to you. [zipfinder] Image By Travis Wise/Flikr Over the last decade, the Internet had a profound impact on the way the world works. It’s changed the way not just people but whole countries interact, allowed more people to be connected and allowed information to be shared in an instant. So the big question is, will global Internet access put us on the path toward world peace? The Internet Brings Us Together Since the beginning stages of the Internet, people have predicted it might be the catalyst that finally sets the world toward a more peaceful existence. The Internet is the single most-effective tool toward breaking down borders between countries. Recent events have shown this to be true. When the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by extremists both Twitter and Facebook lit up with the phrase “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) as people across the world showed their support for the victims and French citizens. The Internet has the power to unite everyone toward a common goal. If the Internet were available on a global scale, perhaps that would give the world as a whole a greater chance of finding common ground. It Also Improves Economies The 2014 Global Peace Index indicates the ten countries most likely to deteriorate in peace over the next two years are ones with little to no Internet access or ability to spread information. They’re also underdeveloped countries, primarily in Africa and South America, like Zambia and Haiti. Criminologists have long theorized that areas with high unemployment and bad economies are more prone to violence and crime, though some economists tend to disagree. It’s the classic battle between the haves and the have-nots. The rich oppress the poor while the poor rebel and fight back against the rich for an equal place in the world. So, in theory, Internet access should solve this problem. The Internet isn’t just a form of communication, it does something far more important: it creates jobs. Since 2012 there are more entrepreneurs than ever before thanks heavily to Internet access and the ability to use it to create and implement new ideas. Young men and women across the globe are creating businesses and technology thanks to their ability to communicate and share ideas with one another. Global startups are occurring in large numbers, most of which are designed to be implemented across the globe. We reported last year that five billion people in the world do not have access to the Internet, primarily in developing nations, but there were groups looking to change that. Many developing nations have poor economies and little access to education or information. By providing them with Internet access, we could potentially turn the tide on the horrible conditions that proliferate in these areas. It’s a known fact that access to education, which the Internet provides, leads to a more intelligent and informed populace. This in turn trends toward wider civil rights. The Internet Levels The Playing Field By bringing these smaller nations into the Internet fold it may cut down on the black markets that flourish in these areas as well as provide them with businesses where they can earn more income, creating less social and financial divide. The Internet has the capability to help balance the global economy by giving both large and developing nations equal opportunity to expand and grow, as well as share information. If there were less disproportion among larger countries and smaller ones, there would be less need to fight wars over things like oil and gas. We’ve already seen that as economies grow countries become more reliant on one another, like the United States and China, thanks to geo-economics. Essentially, the more integrated countries become they also become less interested in war and conflict. Open information through the Internet is the key to allowing nations to prosper and goals to become more aligned. As they say, knowledge is power, and the more knowledge shared throughout the world the closer we’ll become to achieving world peace. Image by Marcela Palma/Flikr
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