CPS’ Chromebook effort, Comcast program, just point to need for municipal broadband
From Charles Franklin, Matt Goldstein, Adriane Musgrave, Roy Russell, Vatsady Sivongxay and Saul Tannenbaum, on Feb. 26, 2018: It is to the credit of the Cambridge Public Schools that it distributed Chromebooks to its students to promote digital equity (“No digital divide seen in high school survey of students with laptops requiring Internet,” Feb. 20, 2018), but a student survey shouldn’t be the end of a digital equity conversation. It should be the beginning. Regardless of the survey’s results, we know that low-income families must find the financial resources to provide not only technology but also broadband for themselves and their children in an expensive Cambridge market.
Our schools should not have to help families navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth that is Comcast Internet Essentials. Provided by Comcast under duress, that service has significant barriers to purchase and anyone who manages to successfully do so is rewarded with a third-rate product.
Comcast reaps vast profits from the homes and businesses of Cambridge and, rather than reinvesting money into the community, it funds its corporate priorities: acquisition of companies such as NBC, sponsorship of the Olympics and stock buybacks. That money should be used to improve our aging Internet infrastructure and to provide equal access to the Internet regardless of income status, not to pad the pockets of shareholders. A municipal broadband system, charging reasonable rates, could pay back the cost of its construction and make broadband available regardless of the ability to pay.
It’s time for Cambridge, birthplace of the Internet, to take this step into the 21st century.