The latest crusade of the National Council of Churches and its allies is broadband access for everyone, because we all know that if it ain’t fast, it ain’t really the Internet. For chuckles I took a look around the BringBettyBroadband.org site, which features a cartoon video so dopey the cable company might have put it out (if they didn’t mind looking like total idiots, that is). Anyway, here’s some of what they have to say about the campaign:
Because of uneven availability of online access, information about local issues – whether that is a crime report, an environmental hazard. or an upcoming local election – is easily and readily available to some people, but others are left out.
This, presumably, is because so few people own either a radio or a television.
For too long, the process of reaching out and educating traditionally disenfranchised communities has been left to volunteer efforts and the philanthropic community alone.
Such a state of affairs is totally unacceptable, of course, which means that this is a case for MEDIA JUSTICE MAN!
Broadband and our Communities. Today, from everything to scheduling a special garbage pickup to driver’s license renewal to voting locations are available on line. Without access to the web, parents cannot communicate with teachers or principals and children can’t do homework assignments.
Which is possible without broadband.
Broadband and Economic Justice. Without adequate internet access, how does a person acquire job skills, employment information, education, and dialogue with potential employers or peer networks? Some individuals must congregate at job sites or stand in long lines to get a job, while others can review job postings, sort by geographic location, post a resume and email thank you notes from the comfort of their homes.
Which is also possible without broadband.
Broadband and Equal Access to Health Care. Our country is currently debating the use of new technologies in a variety of arenas. For example, Barack Obama’s proposals to expand health care for all Americans relies to a significant degree on adoption moving health care records to an electronic platform. Over the long term, this means individuals without broadband access could receive poorer quality health care than those with that access.
Which is a red herring, since doctors have the scratch to be able to afford broadband, and patients (if they will be able to access such records over the Internet at all) will be able to do it without broadband.
As adopted in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
As the UN declaration explains above, the right to disseminate and receive information is an essential human right. It is a right that helps to define ourselves as human beings and political actors, helping individuals to participate and define in one’s own culture and identity.
Which, amazingly enough, people have been doing since long before the introduction of broadband, as Steely Dan notes:
And which you can do even now, on the Internet, without broadband.
Increasingly in the U.S., and across the world, the fundamental right to communicate means internet access. And not just any internet access—high speed Internet access.
So there it is. Broadband Internet access is a fundamental right, along with the right to scare Halloween trick-or-treaters, the right to wear a Detroit Lions football helmet to a wedding, the right to the keep and bear penguins, and the right to eat crackers in bed.*
In other news, the word “right” was laid to rest yesterday at Forest Lawn. Police are still looking for whoever savagely beat, mutilated and left for dead this fine old English noun.
*Said right was once abridged in the contract of Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Rube Waddell, whose teammate and roommate, Ossie Schreckengost, refused to sign a new contract in 1904 until a “no crackers in bed” clause was put in Waddell’s contract. This crime against humanity was overturned in the 2006 Supreme Court case, Flywheel v. Shyster, as a violation of the UN Charter and the 32nd Amendment to the Constitution.