Recently critics have pressured regulators in the U.S. and Canada to intervene in wireless markets, even though regulatory reports attest to significant dynamism and competition in the sector. Specifically in the U.S., there are calls for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate Internet service like a utility, controlling price, output, and access. Congress, which oversees the FCC, has historically supported a light regulatory environment under the reasoning that broadband and wireless are emerging industries that need freedom to evolve and innovate.
The idea that wireless prices are too high flies in the face of increasing Internet adoption and consumption across all demographic groups. Not only is there an explosion of mobile-device use, but the price of a wireless megabyte of data has fallen by 99 percent since 2007. Americans and Canadians hold, respectively, the second and third slots in the world for Internet consumption per capita, particularly video. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority notes, "Accessing video online is particularly intensive in Canada, thanks to the country's investment in video-enabling broadband technology.... The trend toward mobile continues to strengthen."
With its advantages of relatively low capital and maintenance requirements, mobility, shared capacity, and usability with a mobile device, wireless represents the most cost effective way to close the digital divide, including connecting rural areas, people of color, and the elderly. It's not surprising that wireless broadband has exploded in Canada and the U.S. with some 330 million connections.
Historically, African-Americans have had a lower rate of wired Internet subscriptions than whites. Moreover people with less income and education, regardless of racial background, have been slower to subscribe to the wired Internet, not necessarily because of cost, but because desktop computers were not part of their lives. Without a computer, there is little need for a wired Internet connection.
However, the differences in Internet adoption disappear when it comes to wireless. Wireless devices are ubiquitous, increasingly inexpensive, and more user friendly than desktop computers. The Pew Research Internet Project reports that African-Americans and Latinos are at least as likely if not more likely than other Americans to own and use smartphones and use mobile connections to access the Internet. Young blacks are just as likely as whites to use the Internet and to have broadband service at home. In fact, blacks between the ages of 18 and 29 have the highest rate of Twitter use of any group in the U.S.
It's remarkable to consider how wireless technologies have transformed our society in less than a generation, a powerful change driven largely by age. The Pew Research Center's study for Internet and American Life reports that 95 percent of teens are online, with 93 percent saying they have a computer or have access to one. They are just as likely to have a cell phone, increasingly a smartphone. In fact, three out of four adults under 50 connect to the Web with a mobile device.