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Is the internet a public utility?

Natural gas, water, and electricity are all public utilities, meaning they supply basic needs that all communities require to live comfortably. These public services are regulated by the state or federal government. When a community’s needs for public utilities go unmet, residents face immense hardship, especially economic challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and workplaces to transition to remote learning and work, which almost always requires internet access. Disparities in broadband accessibility has become more apparent, and many struggle to afford reliable online access. Should the internet be included among public utilities?



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Pandemic Times Remind Of Pressing Need To Wire Rural America With Better Broadband Access

In Oklahoma, Shift to Distance Learning Highlights Stark Inequity in Students’ Internet Connection

Additional resources to think about

Net Neutrality: Is the Internet a Public Utility?
This video from the PBS Idea Channel dives deep into what net neutrality is and what is at stake.

Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019
Explore a 2019 study from the Pew Research Center on internet use and access.

Keep Americans Connected | FCC
The Federal Communications Commission started the Keep Americans Connected Initiative during the Covid-10 pandemic in an attempt to protect access to internet and telephone connectivity.

Is It Time For The Internet To Be A School-Managed Public Utility?
Read an educator's opinion on the question of the internet as a public utility and what schools should do to keep their students and teachers connected.

Jay Inslee Wants More High-Speed Internet In Washington. It’s Needed In Rural And Tribal Communities
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is looking to keep rural and tribal communities in his state connected to the internet.

Why Many Rural Americans Still Don't have Reliable Internet
This video from the Wall Street Journal heads to rural parts of the U.S. and uncovers why some communities don't have access to broadband internet and how it affects communities across the country.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Is the internet a public utility?

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