Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


The future of the United States as a nation depends, in large measure, on its ability to achieve equality for each member of its society. Historically there has been a national policy, known as universal service, of requiring that everyone should be provided the opportunity to receive basic telephone service at an affordable rate, regardless of geographic location or economic status. As computer technology developed, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission appropriately recognized its value. They have, through statutory mandates and regulatory policies, implemented various initiatives to achieve a universally level "playing field" to prevent a gap between information "haves" and "have nots"--or stated differently, a nation that is "digitally divided." This Article explores the evolution of universal service in the telecommunications context and the applicability of its underlying principles to computer technology, and provides suggestions for alternative regulatory approaches to mitigate the growing disparities between our nation's information haves and have-nots.