Yesterday, Jan. 6, National Technology Day, is a worthy moment to consider the impact and importance of technology on how we live. Whether it’s the wheel or the smartphone, we feel its impact every day. For most of us in recent years, the internet has produced an inevitable leveling of access for the first time to worldwide information.
And access is the crucial ingredient to this information. Our reality demonstrates that many of our citizens, especially in low-income and rural areas, have inadequate or no broadband access.
This information divide has existed since the internet’s adoption, but now this divide has become more pronounced as we become connected more than ever. This has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Access, the connective tissue of the internet, has grown more robust and more apparent for work, school, socializing and other activities.
How do we bring broadband access, especially with the impending rollout of 5G, the fastest internet speed ever, to everyone in New Jersey?
I believe that we can agree broadband internet must be accessible to all. It’s that simple, and we cannot tolerate some New Jersey residents being second class citizens in the digital sphere. In one of the richest, most modernized countries globally, it is shameful that so many communities across New Jersey and our nation do not have broadband access to the internet. For more than 20 years, the internet has been integral to our lives, even more so now when most of us are working, learning and socializing remotely.
For that reason, I, along with my colleague Senator Steve Oroho, have sponsored a bipartisan initiative, Senate Bill No. 2864, which would establish a Broadband Access Study Commission. The commission would determine the feasibility of putting that infrastructure in place. The digital divide knows no partisanship and neither should its solution.
This commission will have a predetermined life of one year, and we will forward its findings and recommendations to the governor. This commission will also allow our best thinkers and tech experts to assess the issues and solutions that are economically and practically sound. It will also allow us to review how other forward-looking states are addressing the issue.
The internet and access to it is the great leveling field. Whether you use it for an online class, a way to promote your startup business or only as a way to fight the loneliness imposed on some by the pandemic, you are a member of the club if you have access. After the commission issues its report, we will have a plan for you to join the club affordably.
We also should not forget the economic benefit that internet access provides. After health care, tech-related jobs are among the most secure and well-paying. But how do you join this stream of future growth without the internet? It would be best if you were connected, and once our commission concludes its work, we will have a plan in place that positions all New Jersey residents on an equal footing to meet their digital needs.
That’s my take, what’s yours?