Posts Taged digital-divide

Let’s Talk Solutions

I don’t think anyone is surprised by the two broadband-related studies released in the last several days.  An FCC survey concluded “affordability” is one of the main reasons why nearly one-third of Americans do not have broadband at home.  And the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found “lower income groups continue to lag in their internet use.”   Don’t get me wrong.  Research is helpful, but we need to move on to the solutions.  Some people are.  Like David Sutphen, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance.

Stuphen recently said, “The new FCC study underscores the need to remain focused on closing the digital divide by addressing the American public’s attitudes about broadband and reinforces the IIA’s belief that digital literacy must be a key component of the National Broadband Strategy, due to Congress (this month).  In a 2009 survey of 900 African Americans and Hispanics by Obama pollster Cornell Belcher, 43 percent of respondents cited not knowing how to use the Internet or not seeing the need for the Internet as the reason why they are not online, and 44 percent of those same minorities polled said they would be more likely to subscribe to Internet services if they were provided free lessons on how to use the technology.  Bridging the digital divide and getting every American online should be our top priority—broadband Internet is the great enabler and the great equalizer.”

I’ll be interested to see if the FCC provides any training or lessons on how to use the technology.   And, as the survey points out, there must be relevant content on the Internet. Otherwise, minorities will continue to find little reason to invest in Internet access, and the gap will not be closed.   Who out there is creating thought-provoking content for the minority communities that is driving traffic to their sites every day, especially content that is inspiring and motivating our next generation?

Daily Digest 12_3_09

Give children some broadband with that apple juice

The allocation of broadband stimulus funds are being widely debated, and it seems like a lot of people are weighing in on how those funds are being used. I came across an article that talks about a program to offer discounts for broadband service to all the children that qualify for the National School Lunch program. I applaud the idea, but consider this: the odds that these children have a home computer are low, so in order for this to work, someone needs to figure out how to get hardware makers involved as well, because broadband access without a computing device of some sort creates yet another missed opportunity for progress. I still say the subsidized cell phone model would work here as well. Take a read and give me your thoughts. You can read about these two stories below,2817,2356532,00.asp <,2817,2356532,00.asp

What about Content Neutrality?

All the discussion around Net Neutrality focuses on keeping the internet open and not allowing content to be segregated. Well then, what about when the content host forces you to go to certain search engines to find the content you’re looking for? Well that’s what Rupert Murdoch wants to do. He’s accused Google of “stealing his content” and asking consumers to pay for the clicks to access Murdoch’s sites. This story is one of the many reasons why I believe there cannot be a rush to judgment on the net nuetrality issue. Acting too quickly will open a pandora’s box of problems. I’m also wondering why this story was not featured on any of the open internet campaign sites? You can read about it here

Second-Class Students

Imagine the outrage from parents, teachers, and the community if a school announced that some of its students would have access to textbooks, research papers, and literature, but other students would be denied those resources.  Some students would be branded as worthy, while others as second class.

It baffles me that broadband Internet access in our schools is not seen as such as concern. However, it is encouraging to hear that this digital divide is not being accepted in some schools- just look at two districts in North Carolina — Asheville and Green County.  “We have kids with voracious appetites for information. It’s our responsibility to give them the tools they need to satisfy their own curiosity of learning,” an Asheville media specialist says.  And Greene County educators say its program to provide laptops “breaks down the digital divide between students who have access to technology at home and those that don’t, and it also better prepares students for a workforce that is increasingly reliant on technology.”

I applaud the efforts of these schools.  What lessons could their experience mean to your schools?  Read more:

And speaking of Asheville, Mayor Terry Bellamy has made broadband access among the high-profile issues on her agenda.  She doesn’t miss a chance to discuss how the gap must be closed on the digital divide.  I’m sure thinking like that is one reason that in 2005 she was the first African-American elected as mayor in the city.  I’m just as certain it is one of the reasons that just last week she was re-elected for another four-year term.


Between health care reform, climate bills and war-related news, some important ideas in Congress are not getting as much attention as they deserve.    I just wanted to bring a little more notice to bi-partisan draft language submitted by Reps. Rick Boucher of Virginia and Lee Terry of Nebraska “to curb waste in the Universal Service Fund (USF) and shift money from phone to Internet service in areas on the wrong side of the digital divide.” I’m hoping you’ll read more about it in the mainstream media.  I can guarantee you that I will keep track of it.

Who Can We Trust?

Public Knowledge, an organization representing what I would call “digital elites,” has joined with other elite activist groups to push the FCC to adopt so-called Net Neutrality rules.  To do this, Public Knowledge uses carefully chosen words like “neutrally,” “openness” and “discrimination.” I find myself wondering whether they have any idea what these words mean.  As they insist that net neutrality will benefit minorities, I have serious doubts.

First, Public Knowledge suggests that our civil rights leaders and minority elected officials are not intelligent enough to think for themselves.  Public Knowledge has questioned our leaders’ desire to ensure that our communities have access to and beneficial use of broadband services. With African American unemployment at 15.4%, Public Knowledge mocks their concerns that minorities without broadband access can’t compete for jobs.  When the African American broadband adoption rate is only 2/3 of that for White Americans, Public Knowledge dismisses our leaders’ support for a National Broadband Plan focused on increasing adoption and use.  With African American men earning 25 percent less than their white counterparts, Public Knowledge scoffs at our leaders’ desire to ensure that public policy promotes affordable broadband.   When our leaders ask legitimate and respectful questions about the possible unintended consequences of net neutrality rules, Public Knowledge shows them the back of their hand.

Public Knowledge even suggests that the concerns of all minorities are only directed at, or merit the attention of, the “African American” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.   This statement reminds me of a time in our past when outright racial appeals and stereotypes polluted the stream of public discourse.  This should not be tolerated.

I believe all of the FCC Commissioners respect and share the concerns of minority elected officials and civil rights leaders.  I’m confident that they will respond by addressing our leaders’ request for full research and analysis before any rules are adopted that could have adverse results for broadband adoption.

I also applaud African American leaders and scores of Democratic members of Congress who had the wisdom to flash a “caution light” about the unintended consequences of net neutrality rules.  And I detest the effort by Public Knowledge and its allies to brand them as “deserters” and “unAmerican” because their views are not in lockstep with Public Knowledge.

The really ironic thing about Public Knowledge’s insistence that questions must not be asked about their demand for new Internet rules is this: how does the public obtain knowledge if it cannot even ask questions?  I want to see Public Knowledge and its allies drop their presumptuousness and stop pretending that they speak for our communities. Our diverse public has the knowledge, and the right, to speak for itself.

Let me restate our concerns:

    * The risk that a regressive pricing mandate that net neutrality rules could impose will shift online costs to the poor is real.
    * The risk that over-regulation will depress deployment and access is real.
    * The risk that restrictions on network management will reduce the quality and reliability of Internet service for light users — students, the poor on fixed incomes, the elderly, and community organizers who rely on Internet access to reach their communities – is real.

Net neutrality advocates would serve their cause well if they would stop attacking the intelligence and integrity of minority and other Democratic leaders, and stop writing off genuine disagreements or concerns about the potential effects of these regulations.  I ask net neutrality advocates to pause for a moment, start listening to what minorities are saying, and then consider how best to close the digital divide. They should humbly reflect on whether or not net neutrality could be implemented in a manner that is certain to close the digital divide and not just feed the bandwidth desires of the digital elite, a move that would shift costs to low-volume, low-income consumers.

Low barriers to entry are what make the Internet fertile ground for entrepreneurs and activists to disrupt the landscape with new ideas.  We cannot raise these barriers before disadvantaged populations, who have been historically disenfranchised, have the opportunity to enter the field.  I would not have had the success that I’ve had in my life had the Internet not been available to me in the way that it is now.  And I would be doing a disservice to my community if I did not work to make sure it stays that way.

The public has the right to know the answers. That is what we mean by “public knowledge.”  I urge the organization with that name to behave like they mean it.