(Reuters) – Cable companies will offer high-speed Internet service to low-income families in the United States at around a fifth of the national average price… Families who qualify for free school lunches will be able to sign up for $9.95 a month high-speed Internet services from top cable providers.
Further, families eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches will be able to buy low-cost computers. Specifically, households need at least one child that participates in the National School Lunch Program to be eligible for the reduced-cost high-speed Internet service. The initiative is part of the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to extend affordable broadband Internet access across the United States.
I think I can agree that this program is well-intentioned. Unfortunately, the ideology behind it is more harmful than it is beneficial from my perspective. I see at least two problems with a program like this.
First, as I have said in the past (see: Political Hokey-Pokey; Fair Enough?) being poor in America is far too comfortable and convenient (in relation to actual need, there are millions of people in the world that would kill for an opportunity to be poor in America). There is no incentive to ever get out of poverty. Programs exist to subsidize rent, utilities, food, and in some cases, transportation. Granted, this does not appear to be a government (read: taxpayer) funded endeavor, but I think programs like this help lull people into a comfortability in poverty. The fact that this is an unnecessary subsidy makes it worse. This subsidy has nothing to do with basic needs. Libraries and schools are all equipped with computers, the internet, and print references. Any child with the desire to learn and achieve in school can do so without receiving discounted services.
Which leads me to the more significant problem a program like this helps stoke. In response to the survey showing that “43 percent of households with annual incomes below $25,000 had broadband access at home, while 93 percent of households with incomes exceeding $100,000 had broadband” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “We think we’re going to move the needle on the broadband adoption gap“.
As this is being written, there is a growing sense of class antipathy afoot in this country. The wealthy are being demonized and the perceived poor are bestowed victimhood. The wealth gaps between the rich, middle-class and poor is emphasized. The “distribution of wealth” is called unfair.
My concern raised in More taxes? because they can afford it is on the brink of realization. It wont be long before goods and services are priced according to income. The Connect to Compete initiative is just the camel’s nose under the tent a movement is looking for. Soon I see other goods and services following suit with the government’s endorsement. The Connect to Compete program is linked to government standards of poverty, and with it comes a certain amount of oversight, albeit negligible at this point.
Though I disagree to an extent, it is one thing to subsidize housing, food, and utilities since an argument can be made for survival. But subsidizing non-essentials like the internet is a dangerous path to travel.