Access to high-speed internet is crucial to anyone trying to live and work in today’s economy, and can help people from every community live up to their potential. For women especially, broadband can be the key to economic empowerment, community engagement and the social connections that bind us together.
As the leader of an organization promoting civic engagement and leadership among women of color, I am especially concerned about access to information and technology in the communities where it’s most-needed.
In too many places, for too many people, the cost of accessing these tools is still a barrier to entry. According to a recent study, while there can be several reasons low-income households don’t have access to broadband, the monthly subscription cost is one of the most significant. In addition, a government survey from 2012 found that nearly three in ten respondents (29 percent) reported that the cost of internet service was the main reason they didn’t subscribe.
It stands to reason, then, that the government agency tasked with improving access to communications technology, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), would be concerned with what broadband companies are charging their subscribers, with an eye toward keeping costs low.
However, despite what may have been noble intentions, the FCC’s recent proposal to “unlock the box,” set to be finalized before the end of the year, includes a provision that would force all broadband providers to note a special line item on their bills that specifically calls out the fee they charge for renting a modem. While transparent billing practices are certainly a good goal, the provision would also require that if a company doesn’t currently charge a modem rental fee, they would need to start.
Rather than prioritizing a one-size-fits-all policy, the FCC should encourage more companies to charge fewer fees in the first place, because it’s clear that cost makes it harder for everyone to access this critical resource.
The FCC should work to make broadband more affordable for everyone across the board. For too many consumers, the cost of high-speed internet is already far too high. No broadband subscriber should have to pay an unnecessary fee, especially one their provider doesn’t want to charge them in the first place.
Rep. Laura Hall (AL) is the President of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women), a non-profit, non-partisan organization primarily composed of current and former black women legislators as well as many appointed officials, serving as a global voice addressing a myriad of issues affecting the lives of all women.