Markey decries Web access "cost chasm"

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A "cost chasm" exists among Internet users because only the wealthy can afford broadband Internet services, said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member on the House Telecommunications Subcommitee, on Thursday.

The General Accounting Office Thursday released a report called "Characteristics and Choices of Internet Users," which looked at Internet consumers broken down across economic and ethnic lines. "Among those consumers who are already `wired,' the distinction between those who subscribe to broadband versus those using narrowband connections does not appear to break down along racial or ethnic lines," Markey said. "Instead, it appears from the GAO's findings that once consumers get online, Internet demographics indicate a `cost chasm' based upon service connection prices and household income rather than an ethnically or racially pronounced digital divide."

The report noted that 40% of broadband users have an annual household income of $75,000 or more, compared with only 20% of narrowband subscribers. "The GAO's survey results demonstrate that while competition in the deployment of broadband services was sparked by passage of the Telecommunications Act, we must renew our policy commitment to competition in order to drive down prices for consumers to bridge the `cost chasm,' Markey said.
- Paige Albiniak

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