This article examines how people, companies, and cities dealt with the issue of whether or not to electrify communities at the turn of the century. After all, why should a municipality use taxes to pay to wire homes for electricity? The entire article is worth a read. Here is an area I found interesting:
The argument FDR made was that the quality of life—and clearly the economic output—of rural Americans would suffer without electricity, which in the space of a few decades had become immensely profitable for private utilities, and an absolute necessity.
Undoubtedly, you see where I’ve been going with all this. Broadband in 2009 is electricity in 1900. We may think we know all the means to which high-speed Internet access may be put, but we clearly do not: YouTube and Twitter prove that new things are constantly on the way and will emerge as bandwidth and access continues to increase.
Like electricity, the notion of whether broadband is an inherent right and necessity of every citizen is up for grabs in the US. Sweden and Finland have already answered the question: It’s a birthright. Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and many European countries aren’t far behind in having created the right regulatory and market conditions to bring better and affordable broadband to a greater percentage of its citizens than in the US.
I love the historical examination of how society confronted and debated something we take for granted now.
But it got me thinking about all the hubbub last week about capping smartphone users who download a lot. In Marietta Georgia, where I grew up, there is a Coke bottling plant that bottles Dasani water. Dasani bottled water is just Cobb County municipal water. They are the 2nd biggest water consumer in Cobb County behind Water White Water Park. Do they get capped? Do they pay a premium? Nope. They they pay the same flat water rate as my parents do.
What about the digital divide? Why should we give some poor kids internet? After all, they don't even one a computer. Looks like a silly argument when compared with the "Why require that electricity be provided to houses? After all, those poor people don't even have lights!" argument from 1905. Why did we electrify rural America? To improve quality of life and boost economic output. And why don't we treat internet access as a utility? Cause that's just socialism! ;-)
The utility of The Utilities