Free for all: Should all Americans have access to high-speed internet?

Ever think what your life would be like without high-speed Web access? Frankly, I can't imagine it, and maybe you can't either. Whether as a productivity tool for work or life or both, broadband Internet access would seem to be a slam dunk for most people who can afford it.

But that's just it. There are plenty of people who can't afford it, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin says high-speed Web access is so important that everyone, all Americans, should have it. He spoke with USA TODAY about broadband Internet access for all citizens, and hopes to dedicate a portion of the wireless airwaves that will be auctioned off next year to the cause.

While broadband penetration rates have grown, there is something of a digital divide. USA TODAY reports that only 38% of rural households are broadband customers, citing the stat from a Communications Workers of America report. Not surprising, the numbers are higher in urban and suburban areas -- 57% and 60%, respectively. As with utilities, the cost of high-speed access is an issue, according to the report.

Broadband growth in the U.S. has stalled over the past five months, according to a report released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The report says about 55% of all adult Americans now have a high-speed internet connection, or a broadband connection, in their home. That's compared with 47% of adults with broadband in early 2007, and 54% in December 2007.

So what do you think? Does the government have a duty or moral obligation to ensure that all Americans have high-speed Web access and access to wireless services as well? Should there be tax incentives for companies that offer lower-cost services or subsidies for low-income Americans?

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