Q: Bill writes – Mike, what is your stance on rural broadband and the need to connect every home and business to reliable, fast, and affordable Internet Access?
A: I gotta admit, that’s pretty far down my list of priorities right now, and on the technology side, I suspect it is a question that newer cellular technologies will make moot, as far as running any kind of wires out to the country is concerned.
But that is an example of one of the many things a congressperson will need to become an expert on, as well as an example of how having a congressional staff would really come in handy for research and debate about all the many issues outside of my, or any one person’s areas of expertise.
I also think it’s an example where a person’s core principles, and dedication to open minded research are important.
My approach is to begin with a benefit analysis, and then, if there are substantial benefits, consider costs.
First, are we talking providing access for everyone regardless of income, or just for those who can afford it?
For those who can afford it, my default position is to let capitalism and individual freedom take its course. If there is profit in providing a service, it will be provided. If people want to live in the country, they are free to do so, but there are trade-offs and government cannot be expected to pay for everyone’s lifestyle choices.
For those who can’t, or have serious trouble affording it, that is a different question. It is difficult, most often impossible these days to get a job or access to government or other benefits without an internet connection.
And it’s not enough to provide internet access: a computer is also required to receive and transmit the information. So if we are going to guarantee internet access to every individual residence, that would require providing subsidized phones and computers as well. We would need to be okay with the fact that many who received those freebies would use them to play games, post jokes on Facebook, or spread anti-American propaganda.
I think a better solution, or certainly an intermediate one, would be to support some kind of centers in small towns where people could go for free internet access. Perhaps these centers could provide other services, such as loaning books or movies, and provide classes tailored to the needs of the local community. Maybe these centers could even have spaces dedicated to children’s learning. Perhaps we could call them “libraries” and make sure they are available in small towns accessible to all Americans. I definitely support that idea and would work in Congress to make it a reality for everyone.