If you share our interest in issues related to how broadband access (or the lack of it) contributes to the digital divide, be sure to read Jessamyn West’s blog post at librarian.net. It summarizes the concise and well-informed statement she made at a recent public hearing on Vermont’s draft Telecommunications Plan.
Jessamyn made three points about the availability of broadband Internet service:
(1) In many areas consumers looking for broadband service have almost no choice of providers.
(2) In discussing broadband availability, cellular and satellite service should not be considered as equitable with cable or DSL.
(3) Simply making broadband service available isn’t enough to empower full participation in the online world; other resources and human help are necessary to close the participation gap.
Read Jessamyn’s article for more details.
Full participation in American society is increasingly requiring people to be comfortable with computers, mobile devices, and the Internet. Because the web and the cloud create a convenient, cost-savings way of doing business, more and more daily consumer interactions are being pushed into the online realm. Government agencies, insurance providers, financial services, and other entities expect consumers to interact with them through websites, receive communications via email, and allow their photos, music, and other data to be stored in the cloud.
Remaining offline isn’t a viable choice anymore. Even for people in sparsely-populated areas, equitable access to high-speed broadband Internet service is essential for participation in modern American culture. The Internet is as necessary now as the telephone and U.S. mail were during the last century, but the cost of building the infrastructure isn’t supported by government policies as it was for those services. If the trend continues, the existing economic inequalities between the “haves” and the “have nots” will be further exacerbated by the digital divide between online America and those who are left behind and offline.