Why the government should provide internet access

internet accessThis month Vox featured an interview and accompanying video with Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama on science, technology, and innovation policy. In the interview, Crawford offers a compelling case for why the government should provide internet access. Here are a few choice excerpts:

On why government should get involved:

We need a public option for internet access because internet access is just like electricity or a road grid. This is something that the private market doesn’t provide left to its own devices. What they’ll do is systematically provide extraordinarily expensive services for the richest people in America, leave out a huge percentage of the population and, in general, try to make their own profits at the expense of social good. It really makes sense to have one wire going to your house. The problem is we’ve gotten stuck with the wrong wire.

When it comes to fiber penetration—that’s the world-class kind of network we should have—we’re behind Sweden, Estonia, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan. A whole host of other developed countries. We should be looking [at] the rest of the world in the rearview mirror. Instead, for more than 77% of Americans, their only choice for a high-capacity connection is their local cable monopoly. So just as we have a postal service that’s a public option for communications in the form of mail, we also need public options in every city for very high-capacity, very high-speed fiber internet access. That way we’ll make sure and we can compete with every other nation in the 21st century.

On what it will take to get it done:

These infrastructure issues are not partisan by nature. The free market only functions if it has these level-playing-field inputs that are in place like electricity, communication services and roads. It isn’t at all unusual for the state to get involved in these kinds of things. You add together leadership plus great unhappiness on the part of the American people plus some ability to tell the story plainly so people understand and they’re not confused and I think in time you’ll see quite a movement towards mass fiberization of the United States.

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