Eva Arevuo from portfolio company Underline stresses the need to prioritize critical public needs while we design new solutions for access to information.
The current situation has laid bare the inequities in access and opportunity in the U.S, exposing the well-known fact that access to information and access to opportunity are intertwined. Now that we’re already here, let’s take this opportunity to return public interest to center stage in every consideration of internet infrastructure and the behavior of companies that control our access to it. Today, our level of access is a function of where we live, and it’s dictated by the large, incumbent internet service providers (ISPs). With this reality, it’s easy to forget that we, the public, funded most of the internet’s equivalents of interstates, freeways, and major streets. The FCC estimates (conservatively, since data is self-reported by ISPs) that 19 million Americans still lack access at threshold speeds (25/3 mbps), and 60% of those with access have just a single choice of provider, not to mention people in underserved or overlooked urban neighborhoods, rural communities, and on Indian reservations without access entirely. Educational equity, the path to well-paid work, the ability to start a business, necessary upgrades to our infrastructure, the provision of critical public services (and how we access them) — it’s all on the line. And sitting in the wealthiest society in history, we should not be content to sit idly by while millions of people are being left behind, with little hope of ever catching up.