These days, the internet is a constant companion to us. Rarely a day goes by when we are not in contact with some facet of the internet, be it directly or through some part of internet culture. Many people have internet-enabled phones or tablets that they carry around for the sole purpose of staying in touch with Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites. While these social applications and entertainment are all fine enough, it's the farther-reaching political effects that should interest us.
Many of these online networks have been absolutely vital to several movements in recent years, notably the revolutions in Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt. Some may argue that the revolutions would have happened regardless of these networks, but it's undeniable that the fast spread of information that these sites allowed was a deciding factor in the organization of protesters. Governments also have a particularly hard time controlling information when anyone in the country can post important details at any time. In the case of the Egypt protests, the government tried to take control of the situation by temporarily shutting down the internet service providers, halting access to Twitter and the like. While that partially worked, much of the international community had already heard of the situation, and the Egyptian government merely brought more scorn upon their heads.
It's in response to situations like these that the UN ruled in mid-2011 that access to the internet is a human right, and for good reason. It's nigh impossible to control and, as proven, is an amazing method of organizing against those in power, like corrupt governments. Now, this doesn't mean that everyone should get internet for free, since it's likely some would choose to interpret it that way. All services cost the provider money, and unless it were to become government-run (which we do not want) the company needs to make a profit. What it does mean is that everyone gets the opportunity to have internet access at reasonable prices.
This happens to be one of the failings of America's integration of the internet: its accessibility. Without pricey data plans, wireless just isn't as widespread as it should be. While not noticeable here are RIT, America certainly lacks pervasive wireless. Major cities may sometimes have accidental blanket coverage, but it's by no means intentional, and is usually a mess of password protected networks to avoid bandwidth theft. What needs to be done is the creation of several Metropolitan Area Networks, starting with the major US cities.
This is the same kind of network RIT uses, and could be easily implemented by any of the service providers in any American city; the motivation just isn't there for internet service providers. They earn a fair amount of money on the current network, and don't have to worry about an overhaul to their system. Although some cost may be associated with the installation of these mega-networks, the ISP that does so will easily see massive increases in their customers through the sheer convenience.
Regardless of the issues this system may create, the connectivity that the internet creates has shown itself to be instrumental to the protection of citizens' rights. The spread of information has always been the bane of oppressive governments, and as events in the last few years show, we must protect our interests as free thinking citizens.