Broadband not a utility? Not necessary or essential? Who says?

We know that broadband is essential. If we ever doubted it, this life of pandemic has made it clear.

I applaud the broadband providers who stepped up at the onset of the pandemic to promise broadband – except those that didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The Daily Dot has collected complaints sent to the FCC. But first – a nod to the providers in Minnesota. Only one complaint noted…

Here are some of the complaints…

  • “I’ve been isolated for weeks with my family due to the impact coronavirus has had in our household, no phone, no internet, no TV. I am self employed and have zero income during this pandemic. I am only able to send this email by using the little data that I have available on my cell.”
  • “I am a mother of four boys whom who all are in school and need the internet to do their online school work, so I paid my bill of $221.00 to turn my services on, in which was the last money I had and now do not have money to buy groceries for the week to provide to my family,”
  • “My Boost Mobile phone service has been cut off because of not being able to pay,” the customer wrote on April 11. “I cannot pay my phone bill right now cause my hours have been severely cut due to the coronavirus outbreak. I need this phone, it is my lifeline, without it, my work will not be able to get a hold of me … Without this phone, there is a very good chance that I will get fired.”

The article goes on to say that the FCC reports that most of the complaints have been resolved. That’s good but this will be an ongoing problem and bleeds into several other problems. First, the broadband providers cannot bear the brunt of the financial crisis alone. They stepped up but providing low cost and free access indefinitely is not sustainable.

Also – and in some ways more importantly – providers cannot prioritize short terms solutions and preparing and deploying better networks to people who don’t have them. I just saw a Twitter complaint from a journalist in St Paul (very near me) about dropped connections. Also in St Paul, I have two new cell phone “dead zone” in my aera. Customers are using the heck out of the broadband we have – as individual and as communities – we need upgrades. And I’m in a well served area saying that!

We need public-private partnerships. In Minnesota, that means we need the MN Legislature to look again at increases in support for broadband  distance education and telehealth.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Policy, Vendors and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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