National Association of the Deaf

Broadband Internet Access

The NAD advocates for broadband Internet access to be available, affordable, and accessible to all Americans. Here are some reasons why broadband is important for people who are deaf or hard of hearing:

  1. Broadband makes it possible for people to see each other. They may sign to each other or get visual cues to understand communication, such as through speech reading. They may also use broadband to connect to sign language interpreters. Dial-up connections simply are too slow for such uses.
  2. Because broadband is always on, it functions much like a telephone. The “ring” of the phone becomes a message that pops up on the computer screen or other device, such as a videophone.
  3. Broadband can be a source of reasonable accommodations for deaf and hearing employees, through the provision of text, e-mail, instant messaging, video communication, and relay service access.
  4. Increasingly, broadband is being used to deliver news, information, education, health care, and entertainment services, as well as social networking opportunities.

Technology Neutral

Broadband can be delivered to you in any of several ways. It can come to you over phone lines, from telephone companies, as with DSL. Or, broadband could come to you from a cable television company, or other service provider. Increasingly, it is coming to you through the air, via wireless (cell) phones and public Internet “hot spots.” The specific technology – or platform – matters less and less. The Committee on Broadband Last Mile Technology (2002) urged that broadband be considered a “technology-neutral” platform:

The future of broadband is sometimes described as a shootout among competing technologies that will result in a single technology dominating nationwide. This view, however, is simplistic and unrealistic: there is no single superior technology option. Broadband is going to be characterized by diverse technologies for the foreseeable future (

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed. In its February 15, 2002 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on broadband, the Commission referred to “any and all platforms capable of fusing communications power, computing power, high-bandwidth intensive content, and access to the Internet,” noting that “broadband is evolving across multiple electronic platforms as traditional wireless, cable, satellite, and wireline providers have expended substantial investments in broadband capable infrastructures.”

What’s Next

Broadband is available today -- for some people, in some locations. We need it available for all people in all locations. Companies that offer broadband today typically charge $30 to $50 per month. That’s still too expensive for many people. Both issues – widespread availability and affordable costs -- can be resolved. Equally important for our community is making sure that broadband and Internet equipment, services, applications, and content are accessible.

Congress, the FCC, and other federal agencies continue to take steps to increase the availability of broadband Internet access to all Americans. The NAD is working to ensure that broadband Internet access is also affordable and accessible to all Americans.

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National Association of the Deaf | 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3819