Mr. Trump: Free Nationwide Wi-Fi Would Help the Poor, Create Jobs, and Improve the Economy

Poor Americans, people in rural locations, and those with disabilities would benefit most. 


This piece is part of a larger series examining what big ideas a Trump administration could use to achieve its most ambitious goals. Read more entries in our "The Art of the Bill" series here.

In this day and age, people don’t even want to go to the bathroom without their smart phone. For those of us with unbridled access, Wi-Fi might seem ubiquitous. But the reality is, one in five US homes aren’t wired for the internet. In fact, 13% of Americans don’t even use the internet at all. According to a Pew Research Center poll, “Adults from households earning less than $30,000 a year are roughly eight times more likely than the most affluent adults to not use the internet.” Those which make $20,000 per year or less are even less likely. Generally, these folks are among the poor and less educated.

This lack of access hurts educational prospects, the ability to find a good job, and more. Of course, one can usually use the internet at the local library. But they often have a cutoff point, say 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. How can a job seeker who has a 30-minute window compete with someone who has 24/7 access, and can fire off legions of resumes, hour after hour?

In a recent interview with NPR, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said that in her state many farmers, students, and small business owners have to go to a McDonald’s parking lot in order to work. Rural Americans are twice as likely to have never used the internet, the Pew poll found. These are generally the same voters who helped Trump win the presidency. Interestingly enough, the Pew poll found that lack of access was similar among white, Hispanic, and black Americans. Not enough Asian-Americans responded to get a read on their demographic. Those with disabilities are also less likely to have internet at home. 25% of US adults are disabled. 54% of them have no internet access.

A large number of Americans today have internet access only via smart phone.

Another issue, without universal Wi-Fi the US could be overtaken by other countries, losing its innovative edge. To battle income inequality, help keep us competitive, heal the country, and offer something all Americans can get behind, the Trump Administration should setup the entire US for free high-speed internet. Though deficit hawks might poo-poo the idea, it should be cost-effective, since Estonia, which has a lot smaller GDP than the US, is already completely covered. Not only can you get in anywhere in the country and in all public places, you may even pick up Wi-Fi while hiking in the woods there, as some claim.

The Philippines too recently installed free Wi-Fi in public places including schools, hospitals, airports, libraries, public parks, and other locations. The speed is up to one gigabyte at each access point. The new president Rodrigo Duterte, though criticized for his brutal strong-man tactics from abroad, has been praised domestically for the move, which was completed within 100 days of him taking office.

The Territory of Delhi in India is also planning to offer free Wi-Fi. Surely, if Estonia, the Philippines, and Delhi can do so, the US – one of the richest countries in the world – can too. Private companies are shooting even higher, and planning to offer wireless internet to the entire world. Google, Facebook, and even tech scion Elon Musk all have such plans, concentrating on the most poverty-stricken and remote areas. Google meanwhile, has already wired up Mountainview, WA (where its headquarters is); Kansas City, MO; Douglasville, GA; and certain parts of New York City.  

Estonian hunter uses hunting app to locate his quarry.

A Washington Post article claimed the FCC was planning to cover the US in sweet, sweet Wi-Fi, but under pressure from certain telecom giants, scrapped the plan. However award-winning journalist Jon Brodkin at the website Ars Technica told Forbes that the story was “basically nonsense.”

In 2011, the UN declared internet access a human right. This notion squares with American law too, as the FCC recently ruled the internet a utility rather than a service. Such a massive project would provide jobs and boost the economy. To pay for it, we can adopt Bernie Sanders' plan to put a small tax on risky derivatives trading. Since Mr. Trump is planning to repeal Dodd-Frank, this tax would allow the market to regulate itself, as traders would decide which trades are worth the slim tax.

At nearly four million square miles, a lot of hotspots will have to be set up. Yet the economic payoff would far outweigh the cost. Several World Bank studies found that with every 10% increase in broadband internet penetration a country gains, a 1.38% increase in GDP follows.

This could be like the Eisenhower highways system, connecting Americans like never before, while helping to ease inequality by narrowing the digital divide. It could be called the Trump Internet Superhighway (TIS), acknowledging that the president elect has a predilection for putting his name on things. And this could harken back to the Eisenhower years, a president whom Americans of both political persuasions recall fondly, which could help heal the country as well.

To learn more about giving the entire planet Wi-Fi, click here: 

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
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Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.