The Newest Guaranteed Human Right
The Declaration of Independence famously guarantees three unalienable rights to all humans: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, recently dozens of Democrats are attempting to add a fourth: high-speed internet.
Seemingly, still riding the high of the passage of their Covid relief bill, the Democrats proposed another bill Friday morning, The Accessible Affordable Internet for All Act. The new legislation seeks $94 billion throughout the rest of Joe Biden’s presidency to improve internet access and speed across the nation. The bill was proposed by Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and sponsored by 30 more Democrats between the House and Senate. These politicians intend to offer internet where it is currently unavailable and speed up internet where it is slow while helping families who cannot afford internet properly pay for it.
Senator Angus King from Maine thinks the legislation is a no-brainer even going as far as saying that “the pandemic brought into absolutely clear focus for everyone how important broadband is.” Clyburn, who heads a Rural Broadband Task Force, which aims to bring proper internet to under-served areas of the country, shared similar sentiments saying that “access to broadband today will have the same dramatic impact on rural communities as the rural electrification efforts [of] the last century...our mission [is] to address the digital divide. The disparate effects of that divide have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic and exposed the urgency of ensuring” that citizens from all walks of life have access to the internet.
The pandemic sweeping the nation over the last year certainly brought to light just how important it is to have proper internet in each home. Countless offices closed during the COVID-19 spread and myriads of Americans were forced to work from home. Many employees surveyed and showed preferences to remain working from home moving forward and cost analysis has revealed that companies could save copious amounts of cash by allowing employees to work remotely – upwards of $600 billion annually across the nation. Without the necessary internet access, however, none of this would be possible.
Clyburn also said in a statement to The Washington Post that without this investment we will not be able to grow the economy in our communities all across the country…[which] makes this one of the best infrastructure efforts we can undertake today.” Included in the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act are provisions for already existing internet assistance programs. Last year, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program snuck through as part of an “omnibus bill.” The new legislation would add $6 billion in funds to that program, which offers discounts toward broadband service and on computer purchases. Also being padded would be the Emergency Connectivity Fund, this fund received more than $7 billion via the latest stimulus and aims to implement Wi-Fi on school buses, among other things. Clyburn’s bill would add an extra $2 billion in funding to this program.
The less flashy parts of the bill also offer local governments the right to deliver broadband. The FCC would be allowed to collect and share pricing information from broadband providers, and the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth would be permitted to study cost barriers to internet access twice annually. One of the co-sponsors of the bill Amy Klobuchar says that investing in broadband infrastructure is equivalent to investing in “opportunity for all Americans. In 2021, we should be able to bring high-speed internet to every family in America'' regardless of their area code.
The sentiment of this bill although idyllic has caused backlash from some Republicans who see the internet, especially high-speed internet as a luxury that the government should not have the financial responsibility to bear. If the internet becomes a right it opens the door for other luxury items to become a right as well. The government giving handouts in the form of welfare, stimulus checks, or this new bill is not the way to help low-income areas and will only cause the people there to become ever more dependent on the government for support.