Separate and unequal: the digital divide | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Separate and unequal: the digital divide

Posted By on Sun, Dec 4, 2011 at 8:33 AM

I know from experience the blog has many readers who'll chime in on the topic of the big difference in quality of internet access, particularly between rural and urban customers. But I'd note that the earlier item on ALEC was all about phone companies fighting, successfully, a Louisiana politician trying to get better internet service in Lafayette, a city about the size of Fort Smith.

So check this op-ed in NY Times. Referring to the huge increase of Christmas shopping online, it says:

Such numbers may seem proof that America is, indeed, online. But they mask an emerging division, one that has worrisome implications for our economy and society. Increasingly, we are a country in which only the urban and suburban well-off have truly high-speed Internet access, while the rest — the poor and the working class — either cannot afford access or use restricted wireless access as their only connection to the Internet. As our jobs, entertainment, politics and even health care move online, millions are at risk of being left behind.

Telecommunications, which in theory should bind us together, has often divided us in practice. Until the late 20th century, the divide split those with phone access and those without it. Then it was the Web: in 1995 the Commerce Department published its first look at the “digital divide,” finding stark racial, economic and geographic gaps between those who could get online and those who could not.

The article makes the point that high speed wired access is best (exactly what the Lafayette politician was trying to provide over corporate resistance.) Oops, though. Cable companies provide most of it and they have little competition. Which, you may be sure, is just how Comcast likes it. The writer makes the case for government intervention to improve our low standing in the world on wired access. I don't think ALEC will like that.

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