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Internet Access Proves Necessary to ‘Participate in Life’ During Pandemic

Reliable, reasonably priced, high-speed internet access has been an issue in the United States for quite some time, but the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are even more evident during the pandemic.

Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age joined KIRO Nights to discuss the digital divide.

“Like many other fragile structures in American life, like our public health infrastructure, and our ability to vote securely, internet access is turning up to be a giant, difficult issue for America,”Crawford said. “It’s been in place as a huge issue for years and years, but the pandemic reveals that those who have it and have it inexpensively are able to educate their children at home … are able to visit doctors at a reasonable price without having to go directly to the hospital in person, are able to participate in life.”

The coronavirus pandemic has proved the centrality of internet access to our daily lives, and Crawford said has shown we are failing as a country to make sure everyone has access.

To understand the internet access situation today, Crawford went back to 2004.

“In the early 2000s, around 2004, the entire segment of Internet access, the whole idea of Internet access, was deregulated. All government oversight was removed,” she said.


Now, it’s clear that internet is on par with basic public services like water and electricity.

“What’s stunning is that we went through exactly the same story with electricity,” Crawford said. “Back in the 30s, electricity in United States was controlled only by unsupervised private companies who, just as with … internet access today, divided up the country, formed large cartels, monopolized cities, and left out 90% of farmers up until the mid-30s.”

It took political will from President Franklin Roosevelt to take on the electricity industry and regulate rates to ensure electricity would be available everywhere at a reasonable price.

“Roosevelt said it was the most difficult political battle of his life,” she said. “So here we are, replicating exactly the same story when it comes to Internet access. It’s clearly necessary. Left to its own devices, the private marketplace is not going to make it available at cheap prices to everybody.”

Read entire article at KIRO