The Digital Divide is simply defined as the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not. However, the implications of not having ready access to the internet are truly social justice issues. Here are a few examples followed by some further reading.
Many of us have lived in a connected world for most or all of our lives. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford computers and like technologies have had a great advantage over those who cannot. These technologies have changed the way we live, work, and play. All of our school work, business, and even recreational activities often are centered around new technology. This is a vital resource to us and is an issue of paramount importance.
– Provides excellent, scalable connections to all of our schools at low cost that will always be virtually free and easily expanded.
– Fiber can be exponentially expanded, so as needs grow we can simply expand at low cost instead of having to renegotiate, sign leases with, or pay high fees to private companies. We therefore save money on not having to pay these fees and the network can start paying for itself.
– Online Education including online high schools, online college programs, and supplemental learning at any age. Some examples include WGU, Khan Academy (free), MIT Open Course Ware (free), Washington Virtual Academy, Insight Schools of Washington, Wikipedia (free), etc.
– Provide actually usable low-income connections to low-income individuals. Currently available private low-income options are a joke. They are so far below the Canadian standard for their qulaity of life connection it is sad. We define a high speed connection as only 25 MBits down and 3 Mbits up. The Canadian minimum standard is 50 MBits down and 10 Up.
Especially important as we are on the cusp of losing the Affordable Healthcare Act and many are blocking the importing of safe, cheaper Canadian drugs, will be the ability to receive health care online, using high bandwidth services like online video consultations and diagnosis.
Examples: UW Medicine Virtual Clinic, Online Doctor Visits, Web MD
There are many environmental benefits to fiber too. So much so that it should be the default repair standard for information cabling in the US as of about 15 years ago.
– Fiber optic-cabling requires less maintenance than copper cabling or wireless networks.
– Robust broadband allows for telecommuting, reducing the need for daily commutes to work, or even jobs that are entirely online.
– It allows for the transmission of large files over great distances,easily eliminating the need for large data to be stored on portable hard drives which are then often driven or flown from location to location. Think of large scientific research data or a social justice documentary film.
The free flow of information is very important to maintaining democracy. Virtually all of the large providers in Bellingham (Comcast, Century Link and Verizon) are backed legislation to remove Net Neutrality and are arguing federal preemption against our state’s recently passed net-neutrality laws. Without an infrastructure of our own and with no meaningful regulation in place, even if we watch what’s going on, Bellingham is poised to do little about it other than sulk. If we own our own network, we can set the rules of conduct for providers on it. It also greatly increases the choice of providers, increases competition, and can help eliminate long contract terms.
There are many economic benefits to broadband. Small internet based companies are one of the largest growth industries in the US. It reduces the cost of connections for all businesses, allowing businesses to grow, create next generation jobs, reduce unemployment, and even creating new industries we haven’t even thought of yet. It is the backbone of a modern society.
Without this kind of infrastructure in place, new companies will not be as likely to move here. Surrounding communities are already doing this. The entire country of Canada is going to be providing the equivalent of a mid-range Comcast connection as a right to their citizens. We are falling behind.