A reader writes:
Internet access is a civil right? Ha! That assertion just denigrates the passionate fights for real civil rights.I appreciate this comment because it really made me think.
And I thought about what would happen if poor people were only allowed access to public radio if they paid a monthly fee. And I thought about what would happen if poor people were only allowed to watch public television if they paid a monthly fee. And then I wondered what would happen if poor people were only allowed to check books out of the public library if they paid a monthly fee. And what would happen if poor people were only allowed to go to public school if they paid a monthly fee.
Each of those institutions -- public radio, public television, public library, and public school -- comprise a facet of the intellectual life of all American citizens. To deny access to any of these on the basis of class, race, gender, etc, would not only devalue the potential of the citizenry, but would amount to an infringement of Civil Rights.
It should be no different with regard to access to the Internet.
We need a public system to provide and ensure access for all Americans regardless of where one lives or the ability to pay for a monthly service.
In this time when so many Americans are out of work, we are presented with the opportunity both to re-train and re-employ citizens and spread access throughout the country by means of a public works program for Internet connectivity and community training in digital literacy.
This would be tied to a push for computer manufacturers to step up and help equip all of our nation's schools with 1:1 computing at a reasonable and fair rate; the cost for this 1:1 initiative will be redirected from purchases of paper and printed resources.
The result would be guaranteed free universal Internet access for all Americans.
Yes, I believe firmly that Internet access is a Civil Right. And I welcome suggestions and debate on how to move forward on the issue of once and for all closing the digital divide.