Friday, November 27, 2009

The Universality of Broadband

Here's an interesting social question. Should we take the necessary steps in society to make broadband universally available?

It's an important question, because the continued growth and success of our economy depends on technology and broadband is the core of modern technology. Access to high speed internet improves access to information, enables better education and promotes higher levels of productivity. These advantages cut across all sectors of the economy, albeit to different degrees. Generally, people with higher incomes make good use of broadband. those with lower incomes do not. Lack of universality of broadband access therefore promotes the digital divide - the growing economic disparities in society brought about by access to technology. It's a chicken an egg situation. People without broadband are at an economic disadvantage, in their education and in their jobs. They tend to become lower income, and therefore can't afford broadband or the equipment to make use of it. People in poverty can't afford broadband and therefore have yet another impediment to improving their lot in life.

Should the government step in to develop policies for universal access to broadband? There have been sporadic attempts to do this, but not a comprehensive carefully defined policy. The question has been likened to the initiatives during the industrial revolution to make road access available to everyone. Broadband is the new road system, just as essential to the e-economy as roads were to the i-economy. It needs to be approached that way.

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