Illustration of a lock with an internet signal strength indicator.
Illustration: John Ritter

More Accessible Broadband

Internet access has become a vital necessity, almost as essential to our lives as utilities like water and electricity.

Yet far too many of us either lack access to broadband or struggle to afford it. Almost a quarter of households are not connected to the internet via broadband, according to a June 2021 nationally representative CR survey of 2,565 U.S. adults—32 percent of them because it costs too much, 25 percent because it’s not available in their area. Of those who do have broadband, 24 percent say it’s difficult to afford.

CR has long urged policymakers to address these prob­lems, and our efforts are now bearing fruit: The federal infrastructure bill signed into law in November includes $65 billion for new broadband access and affordability initiatives, many of which CR has long championed. Some $42.5 billion will go to building out broadband infrastructure, with a focus on underserved markets. An additional $14.2 billion will extend subsidies created in response to the pandemic to help low-income families afford high-speed internet.

The law will also require providers to use a stan­dardized format to describe their service offerings and prices. Modeled on food nutrition labels, they’ll help consumers understand exactly what they’ll get for their money, and enable them to comparison shop for providers and service plans.

Call to Action

A recent CR investigation found that almost a third of popular spices and herbs—40 of the 126 products we tested—contained concerning levels of heavy metals. In most of those products, the amount of arsenic, lead, and cadmium combined poses a health risk for anyone regularly consuming them in typical serving sizes. In children, exposure can affect brain development; in adults, it can contribute to central nervous system and reproductive problems, and can damage kidney and immune function. Help us urge the Food and Drug Administration to set stricter limits on heavy metals in food by signing our petition “FDA: Protect Americans from heavy metal exposure.”

Reducing Antibiotic Use

What’s at stake: Antibiotic drugs are gradually becoming less effective at treating human illnesses.

One reason is that many industrial farms overuse antibiotics in animals, often to prevent diseases caused by overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions. Such unnecessary use creates more opportunities for microbes to evolve, rendering antibiotics less effective. This also leads to drug-resistant strains of bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter, which are commonly spread by food animals. More than 35,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2018, McDonald’s, the nation’s largest purchaser of beef, committed to reducing the amount of antibiotics it uses in the raising of its beef. At the time, CR and other consumer groups applauded the announcement. But the fast-food giant has missed its own deadline for announcing reduction targets.

How CR has your back: CR has spent years putting a spotlight on this problem and promoting good stewardship of antibiotics by encouraging their use only for people and animals who need them to treat a diagnosed illness.

Now we are organizing consumers to send messages directly to the McDonald’s CEO and board of directors, to let them know that action on antibiotic reduction is overdue.

What you can do: Join us in telling McDonald’s to live up to its commitment by reducing the use of medically important antibiotics in its supply chain. Sign our petition “McDonald’s: Time to keep your promise and save our antibiotics!

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.