Insight: Telecommunications

Broadband Internet Is an Imperative, Not a Luxury

February 21, 2019

Imagine if we could put every area of America on an even playing field when it comes to high-speed internet.

In the months after World War I, Dwight Eisenhower—who had been stuck stateside during the conflict—accepted a relatively modest assignment: He was tasked with overseeing the first transcontinental military convoy and reporting to his superiors the state of America’s roads, bridges, and byways. The trip, consisting of 79 Army vehicles and 297 personnel, crossed 3,200 miles. The experience was an eye-opener for the young officer.

The convoy was repeatedly slowed by roads in terrible condition. Many were unpaved. Bridges were old and often too low for trucks. Eisenhower could see clearly how road quality directly affected the mobility of a moving army—or any vehicle. The lessons never left him, and his fascination with highways, logistics, and national defense led him, as president four decades later, to champion and launch the interstate highway system

Today’s internet is as critical—if not more so—to our nation’s economy and security as roads and highways were in Eisenhower’s time. And our internet infrastructure is similarly ragged and uneven. Even now, it’s choked by slow speeds or no access at all in significant portions of the country. While a great number of Americans are relying on high-speed broadband to conduct meetings, see their doctors, study with their teachers, and stream the latest shows, roughly 21 million Americans in 2019 had no fixed broadband service and therefore are stuck on the backroads with no on-ramp to the highway nearby. For many of them, it’s a simple fact of geography: They live in rural areas where broadband providers say it’s too expensive to serve. Or, alternatively and commonly, they can’t afford it.

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