ExtremeTech reports that the Federal Communications Commission is considering levying a tax on all broadband internet connections nationwide. The tax would be similar in setup to the Universal Service Fund, a government-imposed tax that appears on all phone bills in order to fund nationwide access to phone service. The new similar fund is called the Connect America Fund, with the goal of providing broadband internet access for all.
According to the FCC, as many as 18 million Americans could gain access to broadband internet over the next decade as a result of the new tax. Currently, 19 million Americans have no access to broadband internet, mostly those in rural areas not served by cable or phone company internet service providers; if everything goes according to plan, almost everyone in the United States would have broadband internet access by 2020.
Companies standing to gain from a government subsidy to provide broadband high speed internet are in support of the fee. These include major technology companies like AT&T, Sprint, and Google, who would all likely be involved in the creation of these new high speed networks to serve rural customers. Other companies and organizations oppose the tax, because they believe that the FCC is moving forward on the Connect America Fund without the oversight of Congress. Some also worry that these subsidies will lead to greater governmental control over the internet, which could be a worry for freedom of speech and privacy activists.
As an increasingly large portion of our modern economy relies on high speed internet to survive, it really is important to get as many people in America connected as possible. America lags behind smaller, more tech-savvy nations like South Korea and Japan in this race. Whether it should be done by government subsidy is another question to ask. What does everybody think?