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US Seeks to Give All Americans High Speed Internet Access


The U.S. Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission until February 17th, 2010 to come up with a plan to bring broadband Internet access to all Americans

The U.S. Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission until February 17th, 2010 to come up with a plan to bring broadband Internet access to all Americans

The U.S. government is spending more than $7 billion to bring high speed Internet access to all Americans. It is a huge infrastructure project and its goal is to make sure every American - including those who live in impoverished urban and rural areas - can take advantage of the World Wide Web.

At an office computer and Internet skills class at Byte Back, a non-profit organization in Washington, many adult students had never touched a computer or explored the World Wide Web before enrolling in the class.

Student Shelia Melvin says she has discovered the value of Internet access.

"Maybe seven years ago you'd see WWW and blah blah blah and I'd think why do people need this. Lo-and-behold, you can't do anything without a WWW. Nothing," Melvin said. "It's just entwined in your life now. I can't imagine myself without it."

Surveys show about one in four Americans have no Internet access at all. That makes for millions who cannot email their doctor or submit an application for a job or take a class online.

The U.S. Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission until February 17, 2010 to come up with a plan to bring broadband Internet access to all Americans. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski explains why the plan is important.

"More and more Americans depend on the Internet every day, at home, at work, in school, at our desks, and on the move. The Internet connects us to our family and friends, to the universe of knowledge, and to the working of our nation's democracy," he said. "We face great challenges as a nation right now - health care, education, energy, public safety. While broadband Internet alone won't provide a complete solution to any of those problems, it can and must play a critical role in solving each one."

Many Americans can access the Internet on everything from a desktop computer to a handheld phone.

But one in four Americans - particularly those in rural and impoverished areas - often lack access to the Internet. Many of the students at Byte Back live in a low income neighborhood in Washington.

"Everyone in this country needs high-speed Internet access, and it must be available to all. It cannot be priced at a level where only certain people have access, because then you are cutting entire sections of our country out of involvement in the world," explained Kelly Ellsworth, Byte Back's executive director.

Byte Back provides free computer classes, free computers, and access to the Internet. Students like Shelia Melvin say they are hoping to use their newly mastered computer and Internet skills to do such basic tasks as apply for a job online.

But first, the government needs to hammer out its plan on how to spend the money to increase Internet access.

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