Public high speed internet for all is a necessity post-Covid
Author: Gladwyn d'Souza | Category: Environment | Health | Date: 06-13-2020
Can you imagine a stay-at-home order without access to high speed internet? According to the New York Times we have all "gone on line and become nicer while staying safe". We hold online birthday parties and figure out how to get food to a disabled neighbor. In Thailand a few days ago there was a massive protest for George Floyd on Zoom! The message from around the world was that "We are all in this fight together." It is a fight against a brutal jackbooted economy of haves and have-nots, an economy of extreme inequality whose vicious means of protecting plunder was exposed by George Floyd while we were all safe indoors. Now consider three essential areas of the internet era- Jobs, Education, and Medicine.
My wife was informed at the beginning of the year that she would be laid off in March. She was glad to take the settlement package figuring she would start looking for a job in April. But weren’t we surprised to be locked into our homes come the end of March. My wife went on line and applied, and to our delight, after going through a bunch of online interviews, she ended up with a job. She started, remotely, at Stanford, on June 1st. According to a Huffington Post article, The Urban Poor Fear Being Left Behind In the Digital Age Without Internet, in 2017, 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies- including Target and Walmart — only accepted job applications online.
George Floyd had lost his job prior to being murdered. He was one of the many who needed internet access in order to be safe, and be able to job search so that he could get on with his life. A Washington Post poll found that 20 percent of Hispanic adults and 16 percent of African Americans report being laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began in the United States, compared with 11 percent of whites and 12 percent of workers of other races. We need universal internet access if the jackbooted economy is to be reformed.
My cousin called me in March to find out how she could take her music school online. She said her clients wanted their children’s eduction to continue and were willing to pay for remote lessons. I introduced her to Zoom of course. According to a 2008 study by the Federal Reserve high school students who have broadband internet at home have graduation rates 6 to 8 percentage points higher than students who don’t. Many media publications are now saying that a whole generation of have-not children are going to miss up to three years of their education because of the coronavirus. George Floyd's children should not lack access to quality teaching because of how the monopoly companies have chosen to disinvest in high speed internet in low income zipcodes! Last month a coronavirus program at UC Berkeley featured Dr. Aguilar saying that Public High Speed Internet Access (also known as Internet As A Public Utility) was a necessity today--a necessity for all if they are to overcome some of the brutal effects of a jackbooted economy.
My daughter thought she broke her ankle while running last month. She called the Palo Alto Medical Foundation to see if she needed to make an appointment with the orthopedist, the bone doctor. They said they would first do triage with her on the phone. After a series of tests--rotate your ankle, move your toes toward your knee, etc.--they diagnosed that she had twisted her ankle. She didn’t need to go in and expose herself to the coronavirus. Put the ankle on ice every evening and call us in the morning, they advised. It worked for her. The New York Times PERSONAL HEALTH section featured the following headline recently: A Pandemic Benefit: The Expansion of Telemedicine. George Floyd contracted the virus and was recovering from the long-term-after-effects when he was murdered. He needed access to telemedicine like the rest of us. The jackbooted economy needs mulitple areas of transformation, among which are internet access for all and medicare for all.
It’s essential for public health that the new economy be one that cares for all in order to prevent pandemics from taking over our lives. According to a May New York Times article 42 million people needed internet access to fight the coronavirus by staying home as an emergency measure. We need to bury the jackbooted economy and nurture up a caring economy. One way to start is with Public High Speed Internet Access for all.
So imagine my joy when I saw that the June meeting of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors had an agenda item to study the legal ramifications of providing High Speed Internet access for all. Hundreds of communities across the US already provide public internet, so it should be no big deal for Silicon Valley right? I logged into the zoom Board of Supervisors meeting. And after seven hours they finally got to the internet agenda item. I and twelve other people spoke in favor. We represented a mix of groups advocating for the homeless, for people living in poverty, for housing, for the environment, and for equity. No one spoke against. Then imagine our surprise when only the two supervisors from the San Jose area voted in favor. The ex-senator from Palo Alto, Simitian, and the Supervisor from Los Gatos, Ellenberg, spoke up for the jackbooted economy. We need to revive it first, they said, before we talk about access for all. The item failed on a 3-2 vote. Write your supervisor and ask for Public High Speed Internet Access for all.
The answer to my earlier question is No, we cannot imagine a stay-at-home order without access to high speed internet. The internet is our Interstate Highway System for the 21st century.