Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Digital Divide

It once was important that every home have phone access. It became a basic necessity of life, along with food, clothing, and shelter. We hated our phone company, it cost a fortune to make a long distance call, but they got us service. And movies like "In Like Flint" enjoyed mocking them.

Today, phone service is an afterthought. Even cell phones are so last year. Today it is all about connection to the web. And today there is a digital divide between area that can access and places in America that can not. "As the world embraces its digital age — two billion people now use the Internet regularly — the line delineating two Americas has become more broadly drawn. There are those who have reliable, fast access to the Internet, and those, like about half of the 27,867 people here in Clarke County, who do not. In rural America, only 60 percent of households use broadband Internet service, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Commerce. That is 10 percent less than urban households. Over all, 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet at all." Of course there is a difference between having broadband and using it. For the health and wealth and welfare of this country, broadband access has become a necessity.

And where there is no broadband, dial up service remains the next best thing to connecting to the web. It is slower and more expensive, but remains an option.

Like the phone, there is a need to be connected 24/7 to all that is around us. Broadband access has made this world a smaller place. And as seen in Egypt, social networking via broadband access, has led to political change. That connection is essential to communication, information, and yes even entertainment. And when it goes down, the loss is felt. No access to email, Twitter feeds, websites, etc. In fact, a drop in service is more quickly felt than with the phone. if your phone doesn't ring, you assume that no one is calling, not that the service stopped. But when broadband is down, you quickly see that your website isn't loading.

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