Today, almost everyone in the United States has the option of purchasing an Internet connection. Yet tens of millions of Americans do not share in many of the social and economic benefits that Internet use affords. An increasing number of communities are taking action to address this issue.
Is the landline “good as dead”? That’s what some media outlets would have you believe from their coverage earlier this year of a report on cellphone-only households. This sensational message makes for eye-catching headlines — but a closer look reveals a different story.
Each year, tens of thousands of frustrated consumers contact their state utility commission when they have a problem with a telecommunications provider. Most turn to the commission after unsuccessfully attempting to resolve the issue with their company. Utility commissions traditionally have the expertise and authority to resolve disputes fairly and effectively, as well as the capacity to work with consumers on an individual basis.
Frustration with sluggish, expensive or unavailable broadband has prompted a growing number of communities to find other options. Some 89 cities and towns in the U.S. have launched their own fiber-to-the-home networks, which many experts say is the fastest and most reliable way to access the Internet.
Affordable access to high-speed Internet networks provides communities with a powerful platform to help meet the challenges - and take advantage of the opportunities - associated with an aging population. This approach to community development deserves more attention from supporters of both age-friendly communities and community broadband networks.
Phone companies are moving from traditional copper-wire telephone technology to wireless and broadband Internet-based services and standards. This transition clearly has advantages for consumers. But the abandonment of old-fashioned wireline service also raises concerns that some existing services may become unaffordable, unreliable or unavailable altogether.
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