It was only last week that the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo net neutrality, a move that is sure to impact the web landscape in detrimental ways dramatically. That attack on internet freedom is not the end goal. FCC chair Ajit Pai is working hard to prop up America’s broadband system to make it look better than it is.
With limited access to high-speed internet nationwide, many communities have no access to broadband services at all. In keeping with the Trump administration’s approach, the FCC is trying to put lipstick on the pig by making it appear like there is greater access to broadband across the country then there is.
To accomplish that trickery, the FCC is planning to redefine the data plan on your cell phone as broadband service.
So what does it matter? Including cellphone data service in the definition of broadband gives the illusion of increased coverage. Because smartphone data is available in more locations, it appears as if more people nationwide have access to broadband.
The problem is that cellphone data is costly, often slow, and comes with caps. It is not the same thing as actual broadband access.
As the world goes increasingly online, people in areas without access to broadband are hobbled. Students without internet access are not provided the same opportunities as their peers with broadband access.
Deb Socia is the executive director of Next Century Cities. Next Century Cities is a group of municipalities whose goal is to expand local broadband access. Socia said, “It seems antithetical to all the other efforts we’re doing,” she continued with this analogy, “I spent a good part of my life as a teacher and a principal. If I had a classroom full of children that included a lot of failing students, I wouldn’t change my standards [to increase the number of passing grades,] I’d change the intervention.”
The FCC can simply change the definition. The consequences of which may mean that not only are the needs hidden but that crucial funding to help provide access to broadband to communities who are currently without such access may be withheld based on the illusion of coverage created by the change in definition.
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