Tell Comcast and the FCC We Need Affordable Internet for All
Many petitions featured on Care2 have succeeded in bringing about change. Let’s hope that history repeats itself, this time for a Care2 petition aimed at helping people like Candelaria Amador, who can’t afford to have internet in her home.
You don’t need me to tell you just how vital the internet is in this day and age. How it can educate and connect people, how it helps people find work and information, how it levels the playing field for people around the world lucky enough to have access to it. Nope, you already know all that.
Kami Griffiths, Executive Director and Co-founder of Community Technology Network describes what having internet at home means for all people:
The more connected people are the better off they are. You have a better quality of life when you have access to Internet at home. Those who don’t have access are being disconnected from the abundant resources and services available on the internet and they are being excluded from the 21st century conversation.
Griffiths adds, “Just having access to the internet is not 100% the answer. You can have the internet and still not be using it.” That’s why Community Technology Network focuses on digital literacy so people learn how to use the internet. She believes having internet at home is important because people need the time and space to practice and become proficient, which is difficult if not impossible in a public internet environment.
Unfortunately, there are millions of people like Candelaria, who cannot afford internet at home. This is especially true for people with disabilities, Latinos, non-English speakers and seniors with incomes below the poverty line. Isolation is a serious problem for many seniors, leading to depression and other problems, yet so many cannot afford to have internet at home, a service that could add potentially life-changing connections. Seeking internet outside of the home is oftentimes not feasible, due to a lack of mobility.
The internet is much more than a luxury that’s nice to have around the house. It’s a lifeline to achieving one’s goals that for many, hasn’t been allowed to grow, let alone blossom. The Care2 petition “Tell Comcast and the FCC: We Need Affordable Internet For All Now!” aims to change that.
So for people who can‘t afford Comcast, why don‘t they just choose another provider with lower rates?
I don’t know about Candelaria’s neighborhood, but when I moved neighborhoods three years ago and went about the not-so-fun task of getting internet set up in my home, I was surprised to discover that there was only one internet service provider (ISP) in my area. So price comparing was not an option. If I wanted internet in my home, I had to pay Comcast $60+ a month, which is way more than many seniors living on fixed incomes can afford.
My new house was in a lower income neighborhood than my previous, (where I had multiple internet provider options at cheaper rates), and I remember thinking at the time, “Is this a monopoly or what?!” It wasn’t, because a monopoly involves exclusive control of a service, but I conceded at the time that low-income neighborhoods were most likely farther down the priority chain of internet providers.
In Candelaria’s and my home state of California, 25 percent of the population is still not connected to the internet — that equals 9.5 million people.
Candelaria is looking for work and really needs internet at home. “I was surprised to learn how much the internet costs, and I cannot afford another bill now,” she claims. She takes a weekly class where she is learning how to create an online resume, but without internet at home, she says it’s very hard to find a job.
She also wants to be able to market her services online. To support herself, she takes care of older people in their homes, but after losing one of her clients she was caring for, she decided to learn to use the computer so she can place ads on Craigslist to drum up more business.
What about libraries?
Sure, there are places where you can go online for free, like libraries, but drafting a resume on a library computer seems stressful to say the least. If you’ve ever created an online resume, you know it takes a decent amount of time to create, and sufficient time and space to be able to concentrate. People of all computer skill levels are challenged by the task. Most libraries have some type of internet user time limit, which means a ticking clock and other internet users breathing down your neck — not necessarily the best environment in which to craft one’s dream-job-landing masterpiece.
Here’s the policy of my local library, the San Francisco Public Library:
Internet computer Users are allotted up to a total of two one-hour sessions each day. Users may reserve a computer for their second hour after they have used their first hour. If you need more than two hours of computer time, you may use an Internet Express computer (a separate location), which can be used for 30 minutes at a time.
It’s great that the city library provides this service, but still, I can’t imagine trying to pull off a winning resume in that scenario, especially if you’re new to computers. When I think back to the last time I created a resume online, I recall losing about two hours on a spacing snafu alone.
Internet use in libraries is increasing. American Library Association explains that “libraries assist with the ever-growing Internet access needs of their library patrons – especially those whose only Internet access is using the computers that public libraries provide.” But while computer use is up, funding is down for libraries.
So U.S. libraries are striving to provide innovative technology services despite budget cuts.
In many cities, there are other places besides libraries where people can access the internet for free, but the question is, how do we make sure that every person in the U.S. has access to affordable internet at home?
Comcast Introduces Internet Essentials
“Bringing the Internet to your home is easy and affordable,” according to Comcast, self-described “the nation’s leading Internet provider.” In 2011 Comcast introduced Internet Essentials, a program designed to help increase broadband adoption, with the goal, “to help make the Internet more accessible to more people.”
But Internet Essentials is only available to new XFINITY Internet customers who have at least one child who is eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
No kids? No luck. Comcast’s Internet Essentials program does not help low income households without children. That’s why this Care2 petition aims to see its program expand so there’s “Affordable Internet For All Now!”
The time is now for Comcast to offer affordable internet to all people
Now may just be the perfect time to tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, because Comcast and Time Warner are in the midst of merging.
First announced in February 2014, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have filed applications seeking FCC approval to transfer of control of the licenses and authorizations held by Time Warner Cable and its wholly-owned and controlled subsidiaries to Comcast.
A lot of people don’t like the Comcast-Time Warner merger, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be approved.
Among the complaints of this $45 billion deal, opponents fear that the merger could squash competition and harm consumers. Freepress, an independent, pro net neutrality organization that fights for people’s rights to connect and communicate, describes the proposed merger:
The combined company would be an Internet and cable juggernaut with unmatched power to crush competition and hike prices for consumers. In fact, Comcast has admitted that prices will go up.
Where does the FCC fit in with all this?
The FCC is an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress that regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable throughout the U.S. The FCC is the United States’ primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation. It has the power in this situation. In fact, just last month the FCC called a timeout on the merger.
So back to the Care2 petition; it makes sense to pressure the FCC to expand Comcast’s Internet Essentials program as a requirement of the merger with Time Warner, so it includes people like Candelaria who cannot afford internet and are not eligible for Comcast’s low-cost internet program.
As Candelaria puts it, “You really need the internet these days, it’s a necessity not a luxury.” She has a wish: “I hope the people in Washington, D.C. will help make the Internet more affordable so people like me can find jobs, email their grandkids, and I can help my friends learn about computers, too.”
One would assume that an internet company involved in a $45 billion merger has the financial capability of providing affordable Internet access to all people.
Signing this petition is an easy way to stand up for people who need affordable internet at home.
Is there an issue you think people should stand up for? Consider creating your very own Care2 petition so you can get others to stand with you.