American voters differ vastly on whether they consider broadband to be essential.
Republican Voter Broadband:
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The Pew Research Center’s latest survey on how Americans feel about upcoming changes to broadband industry regulation has some illuminating results.
About 70 per cent of respondents support municipal governments being able to build their own broadband networks in situations where cable and phone companies are either under-delivering or over-charging. That “substantial majority” comes despite the fact that several U.S. states explicitly ban municipalities from doing so.
The more surprising result, however, is even more political. When asked whether broadband is essential, just about the majority of Americans – 49 per cent – said it is. A further 41 per cent said it is “important, but not essential.”
The difference in the two answers breaks down along political party lines. About 58 per cent of Democrat respondents, or those who lean that way, said broadband is essential, compared to just 38 per cent of Republicans and those leaning that way:
That disparity, where almost two-thirds of Democrats say they can’t live without broadband versus only about one-third of Republicans, is stark.
It does much to explain why Republican regulators, led by Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai, are doing so much to scale back government oversight of the broadband industry.
Issues such as availability, competition, privacy protection and net neutrality were seen as essential under the Obama administration, which is why there rules in place to protect them. But with the majority of Republican voters not considering broadband as essential, Pai clearly doesn’t see the need for those rules.
The New York Times – essential reading for Democrats – has called Pai’s dismantling of those rules as “anti-consumer.” At the very least, the FCC is doing much to shift broadband away from being a protected necessity, and who can blame it? That’s the mandate Republican voters have given it.