Why Some Americans Don’t Have Internet Access | AJ+

Why Some Americans Don’t Have Internet Access | AJ+

You know the internet. We use it for almost literally everything. Food. Transportation. Entertainment. Education. But in the U.S., there’s still areas without internet access. We’re somewhere at the bottom of the list when you look at leading developed nations in terms of broadband penetration, broadband speeds and broadband prices. In fact, 10% of Americans don’t have broadband internet, which means they can’t even stream this video you’re watching right now. It’s not a question of just lacking access to the internet. It’s more like lacking the full capacity to use the internet in the way that it’s being used. The difficulty of getting online is a really big deal for the almost 5 million American households with school-age children.
Why? Because that’s a lot of students who may be unable to complete their digital assignments. Lack of internet access is such a concern, some school districts have equipped school buses with routers so students can get online. The discussion about internet access is really about this: Is access to the internet a human right? Hey fam, I’m Imaeyen, and this Sunday on AJ+ we’re exploring what it’s like to live in a digitally connected nation and yet have limited or no internet access. Maybe you’ve already heard about the United States’ digital divide. There are a lot of Americans with limited or no access to the internet. In rural America, 39% of Americans lack broadband access. But what’s surprising is how many people in big cities like Detroit and Miami lack access to broadband. And what we mean by lacking access is having a broadband connection slower than 25 megabits per second for downloads, and 3 megabits per second for uploads. With that connection speed, a family of four would be unable to independently stream four HD movies simultaneously. An estimated 4% of urban homes are underserved when it comes to internet access. And it’s forced people like small business owner Atreese Watkins to come up with workarounds to get online. Sometimes you can do stuff like go to a cafe. But again, it’s like how many $4 lattes are you paying for in order to administer your business like three or four days a week? Watkins’ limited internet access extends to her work and home. For her, getting online is cost-prohibitive. It would cost about like 90 bucks with most standard service providers. Her struggle isn’t unique. Broadband is expensive, and the cost makes it unaffordable for many. Nearly half of Americans with household incomes below $30,000 a year have no home broadband at all. And low-income homes with children are four times more likely to lack broadband as middle- or high-income families. What’s even more stunning is how the price of the broadband in the U.S. compares with other countries. I’ll let communications professor Victor Pickard explain. Compared to other leading democracies around the world, the U.S. typically has lower speeds, poorer services and much more expensive services, in comparison. An analysis of internet prices in the U.S. and France found the costs in the United States were as much as three and a half times higher than those in France for similar service. And it’s not like the U.S. is getting more for all that extra money. The nation only ranks 10th in the world, behind places like South Korea, Norway and Sweden, when it comes to broadband. So not only are customers in the United States paying more, they’re also getting fewer choices with slower speeds. But the connectivity issue is about more than affordability. It disproportionately affects communities of color, poor communities, rural communities, so it’s still very much a major social problem in the United States today. Even low-income-area residents who can afford home internet often have to deal with very slow speeds. This year, three African-American low-income residents of Cleveland, Ohio, filed a complaint with the FCC. The women claim AT&T has withheld high-speed infrastructure from the overwhelming majority of census blocks with individual poverty rates above 35%. It’s a practice some call digital redlining. In their complaint, they accused AT&T of “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.” Which, if true, would be a violation of the Communications Act. Or at least it was. But that was before FCC Chairman Ajit Pai garnered enough votes to overturn the regulation. By the way, that’s the same ruling that killed net neutrality. Pai has also suggested lowering the goalpost for what constitutes acceptable speeds for broadband. And that could affect how much funding is available to expand broadband networks into rural or low-income areas. So people who are underserved might be deemed to have acceptable internet speeds. Ajit Pai is also the man who suggested a smartphone can be your primary vehicle to get online. Which is curious, because he’s also the guy who began scaling back internet and phone subsidies for low-income families. Even if you accept using a smartphone as a primary source for internet access as reasonable, realize that 23% of all smartphone owners have had to cancel service at some point because of costs. Low-income smartphone owners are even more likely to drop the service because of price. And that’s a problem in a world where we do so much online. Access to broadband is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity. For everything ranging from education, to health, to livelihood, not to mention entertainment, or just getting information, communicating with our loved ones, we have to have access to broadband services. You also need broadband to make it easier to run your small business. As Atreese Watkins has discovered, not having it can cost you. It was really difficult for me to start accepting credit card payments. There were people who stopped wanting to do business with me because I wouldn’t. And if I’m at a venue where I have bad cell signal and there’s no wi-fi, I can’t make sure I got paid. I can’t make sure my payment processed. We use the internet daily, just like water or, say, electricity. Can you imagine the nation having the same debate we’re having about internet access about electricity? Oh wait, you don’t have to, because we already did. In 1932, only about 10% of rural America had electricity, and about half of those people had to buy their own power plants. You had very similar discussions about whether electricity should be seen as a necessity or a luxury. It parallels many of the discussions we’re having today around broadband access. Should the internet be seen as a necessity? Is it even a human right, as some would argue? We don’t go in and tell people that they can have more or less water pressure based on how much they pay their water bill. We don’t tell people whether they can have dim or bright lights based on how much they pay. Today, we don’t consider electricity a luxury. It’s a utility. Harvard law professor Susan Crawford says high-speed internet access has the potential to affect the U.S.’s economic growth the way electricity did. So should we regulate internet accessibility in the same way we do electricity? That’s not on Pai’s to-do list. He believes the FCC is “restoring internet freedom” by by deregulating and “eliminating burdensome and unnecessary requirements.” He claims that’ll free up ISPs like Comcast and AT&T to invest in the necessary infrastructure to improve connectivity for underserved Americans. But Pickard doesn’t believe that’s true. He says Pai’s actions are less deregulation and more reregulation, as Pai’s FCC is basically restructuring the industry to serve corporate interests. He says there’s little incentive for ISPs to provide consumers with a better service. Over the internet’s lifetime, the ISP market has consolidated to the point where there are just two companies providing access. In some parts of the country, there’s only one, which is effectively a monopoly. And it gets more problematic. Millions are actually forced to choose a company that’s blocked certain applications. One option for improving access for Americans is municipally owned internet service providers. It’s what Chattanooga, Tennessee, has done. Its citywide fiber internet network is among the fastest and most affordable internet in the country. And it’s even got a nickname: the Gig. And the city built it itself. Comcast and AT&T didn’t like that, and they sued four times. But Chattanooga won. Here’s what happened next. An independent study published by University of Tennessee found the network could be directly tied to the creation of between 2,800 and 5,200 new jobs. It also said the economic benefits for the city have been roughly $1 billion over the course of the last five years. But Chattanooga’s success poses a great challenge to the telecom industry, which has lobbied states across the country to ban or limit similar experiments. Many states, about 20 as a matter of fact, have passed laws that make this very difficult. Basically, they have succumbed to telecommunication industry lobbying and passed laws that give internet service providers the first right of refusal, so that municipalities aren’t even allowed by law to try to create these community broadband networks. Because of lobbyists, there’s a Tennessee law that makes it illegal for Chattanooga’s network to expand out into surrounding areas. And they’re forbidden from offering internet to customers at rates that are less than the actual cost of providing the service. If we turn accessing the technology itself into the market, that’s a whole other market we have to go through in order to just be viable. And like I said, if you’re not on certain platforms, you don’t exist online, so it literally gives those providers the power to tax folks out of existence. Hey guys, thanks so much for watching. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. And what I want to know is if any of you, or people you know, have trouble getting online. Tell us your stories in the comments below, and don’t forget to come back next Sunday when we have another great video.

Danny Hutson

79 thoughts on “Why Some Americans Don’t Have Internet Access | AJ+

  1. In economics there is something called ''price discrimination", that's basic way monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies in general maximize profits. The very fact that you can you can have all the things you want only with an internet connection (such as TV services and communication, among other things), but telecoms bully you into buying their "bundle services" is another tactic to discriminate price with the guise of "giving you more value".

    Telecoms have indeed have succeeded into turning economic theory into practical application, and in turn made weapons of mass impoverishment.

  2. Could you do a piece on Manus Island? There was a New York Times article that was downright horrifying and I want to learn more…

  3. At first I thought you said fam as you guys forcing this "fam" on us, but if is your default greeting I'm cool with that!
    btw: great vid!

  4. I lived in rural Japan I was paying about $50 for internet from a wired router and line rental (not wireless and you couldn’t use the phone whilst using the internet) that would be around 5-7 mbps which was absolutely ridiculous. I am also from rural England and whilst we’re a tiny island the internet service here lacking but it’s 11mbps on a good day however it’s much cheaper than Japan so I prefer this option.

  5. I find it interesting that a lot of companies these days only accept online job applications which are a burden to the older generation like my parents who don’t know how to use a computer.

    Some studies indicate that having faster internet increases economic growth (kind of like South Korea).

    AT&T fiber is available in the suburbs of Detroit and downtown and possibly midtown (where Wayne State University is) and but nowhere else in the rest of Detroit. I live a couple of blocks from the Detroit city limits and have access to high speed internet which is covered by my campus housing.

  6. How about 2Mbps? On good days
    2Mbps down
    0.05Mbps up
    Not much besides some twitter and some preloaded videos.
    Downloading from Netflix every night….
    I want to move to a bigger city, hopefully that will happen soon….

  7. Internet is a necessity now for sure, and it should be available to everyone with cheap prices, and with no ISPs content control.

  8. Internet Access is everyone's lives its how we get access to information and what's going on in the world. Other countries should have low cost or free internet access.

  9. OMG a municipal owned broadband network, I am so down for that. When I saw that California is one of the states that prevents these networks that got me pissed though. Thank you aj+ for sharing this information.

  10. Good things on internet: Access to good information and truth.

    Bad things: Platform for conspiracy theories (like 9/11 truthers, holocaust denial), attacks on certain groups of people, and a website (storm front) for white supremacists.

  11. Right now l am in China and l only pay $5(USD) per month for unlimited internet and the speed is about 200MBS

  12. Yes internet access is a human right, it should be even allowed in prisons along with photography and videography

    Yes net neutrality

  13. I think you will find that Libertarians (economic fascists re branded) do consider air, water, everything as optional to life, this is why people can poison water, pollute the air, oppose sustainable technologies and repeal net neutrality. The is a war, the right wing want to privatize everything the left wan't to ensure egalitarianism the DNC Corporate Democrats want to neoliberalize everything, this is why I'm Democratic Socialist and fight big money corruption of government.

  14. If you have 1 Mbps connections, you are online. Don't overdo the issue. And if you are buying overpriced coffees, your plight is not a disaster. The ones that really struggle, rural or not, sound more legitimate for our concerns. Online ccess to information is a modern necesity. Access to highspeed video is not.

  15. Internet as a human right WTF. I can understand health care but this is too left wing for me. I understand it puts people at a disadvantage but really a human right. That is bull when you see people in Africa and Asia surving on nothing.

  16. oh im from Canada ,i want the prices americans get for internet and phones ,we pay absurd amounts for barely anything

  17. so, first it's overpriced inefficient healthcare.
    now it's overpriced inefficient internet access.
    america is truly a bastion of capitalist hope.

  18. Internet is a basic right in Finland. If you are a ISP you have to provide 100% of Finnish people with internet where ever they live – for the same price.

  19. Oh yeah, it's CRUCIAL to be able to stream four HD movies SIMULTANEOUSLY. Oh, the Humanity! So you want the taxpayers to pay for this?

  20. Water is a necessity, food and services are too. Want more water? Healthier food? Better services? Pay more. Don’t have enough money? Work harder. Broadness of the internet IS like the pressure of water, or quality of any service. Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean he has a privilege to get things for free, that’s communism! You live in the grand daddy of world Capitalism, you should know how it works.

  21. My dad lives in a rural area and pays the same amount we pay in the suburbs for about a 4 mbps connection download and a bit less upload. His job requires him to use the internet a lot and it's very difficult and frustrating for him to use the internet. There is only one service provider in the area and so they charge exorbitant rates. They even ran a fiber line out to his house but are throttling the speeds unless he pays even more.

  22. Previous necessities have become increasingly dependent on the Internet, thus making it a right the same way a bunch of your rights depend on your electricity access.

  23. So I dont know who actually paid attention to this and who is just blind to liberal media… But I, being a low income white male, obtained my engineering degree without ever owning or having paid for internet in my life. Five years later I have yet to ever own a computer or pay for internet…. IF it were a necessity then I would have it… It is not. If I need to print something, there is a library down the street with $0.20 copies… So in essence, everyone in this video is privileged…

  24. Im othman lm a saudi i love the AJ+ vere match انا عثمان انا سعودي احب AJ+ مرة كثير

  25. I pay 95$ a year for 4 MBPS Internet. And honestly, I am able to do so much stuff online like take MOOC's and watch HD Youtube vidoes. 25 MBPS is a bit too much. Tbh idk who this Ajit dude is, but it makes sense.

  26. It's neither, it's something that does not have to be a right nor a luxury, yes sometimes people can't afford it, I think repealing net neutrality was wrong.

  27. I don’t understand why this is such a debated thing? We already pay for wifi, yet people are finding ways to make us pay for it even more?

  28. It's definitely not a right. You needed to make a video about this..? Holy shit, get a dictionary and look up what a "right" is.

  29. I live on a farm in the middle of bumfuck Maryland and my family, nor my extended family, have cable internet. Comcast would charge us $32,000 just to run a line one mile down our road and that wouldn't reach 4 houses. It's ridiculously hard for my sister and I to do school work because of it.

  30. Definitely a necessity. Public spending should be directed to support access with a lower cost without reduced quality.

  31. I am from India .Here prepaid services are much cheaper than anywhere else in the world.Recently Reliance Industries owned 4g network rolled.It's is much cheaper to access the mobile internet now.Before them Internet data of 1gb costs around 250 in INR nearly equal to 3.7 USD but now we get 28 GB of data for 149 INR equivalent to 2.2 USD.Though internet speed is low but still much better than no access to the internet

  32. NO!!! The Internet is a Luxury. That being said we need to use it so we need people to find innovated ways WITHOUT making laws OBSERVE!!!!

    My recommendation:
    U.S. Congress needs to reserve money to invest in getting Internet access.
    Restore Net Neutrality as Utility.(this would prevent anyone calling it a Right or Luxury.)
    Allow Public run Internet access Local/State

  33. As someone from so called "third world country", it kind of surprised me that America has this kind of problems.

  34. dont be spoiled your problem is not high prices for broadband, it is the lack of slow speeds at low prices, which is caused by ISPs. We used to connect to the net with 14.4 kbps. 1 mbit is far above the necessary bandwidth if the sites you use wouldnt be wasteful facebook had over 3 mb per page last time I checked, that is 3 million characters, one page in a ordinary book is around 1000 characters in ascii text. Which means you download 3000 pages of text information to view one facebook page. That is how wasteful the popular pages are. html increased wastage by a degree but pages using animations and javascript are doing it in a magnitude of wastefulness, and increasingly so in recent years just because bandwidth average is increasing.

  35. Internet is a luxury, you can still get everything done today but it probably takes more planning, and twice as long.

  36. How great is LBJ's great society, really? Did the crack epidemic that hit the fillmore/TL begin before regan, such as during the great society, or even sooner when regan was still ca governor? I was a child during regan's presidency, and i can remember my parents refusing to go to soma/mission/civic center because how misery-stricken those areas were. HP, Sunnydale, TL, and civic center are still hella shady. For presenters, I am kindly requesting bypassing Yara, though also from thizzko, he'd be a tad too optimistic for this topic, in favor of succinct Imaeyen (or sassy Sana with her eye roll/sway hehe), to discuss the immense wealth disparity in the Bay. Dena would not need to talk to fifty people from the bay, we're aware of the range of voices on the bay's big problem lol

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