While the cost of high-speed internet access has come down significantly in recent years, the average $40 a month most families pay for home broadband is still out of reach for millions of cash-strapped American families.
It may seem like a First World Problem: “My internet isn’t fast enough!” But in today’s rough economic climate, access to the full breadth of the internet and ability to use certain technologies may not solely affect your ability to play Angry Birds from your desktop. As colleges and even primary education moves online and job applications become more interactive on the web, not having a workable home computer or relying on a dial-up connection could keep millions of Americans from an ever-growing world of educational and professional opportunities.
In the US, the lack of access is becoming an issue, and the Federal Communications Commission is trying to head it off at the pass. Citing concerns that other countries are getting a technological edge over the US, the FCC is launching a $4 billion program to provide $10 broadband internet access to more than 25 million disadvantaged American families to open up access to all the internet has to offer.
Using federal subsidized lunch guidelines as an indicator, the government agency has teamed up with local broadband providers like Time Warner Cable and Comcast as well as computer manufacturers like Microsoft and Redemtech to offer cut-rate equipment like desktops to qualified families. Under the program, computers will be available to eligible families for between $150 and $250.
FCC chair Julius Genachowski said that disadvantaged families could benefit tremendously from the program:
“Steve Jobs was born into a lower-middle-class family, but part of his story is he had access to then cutting-edge technology because his father was a mechanic in Silicon Valley. If we give children better digital technology, we’re much more likely to see the next generation of innovators like Steve Jobs develop.”
As of now, 1/3rd of American families do not have home broadband internet access.