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The Digital Divide: Speed Matters

The Communications Workers of America have a new and very informative web site called Speed Matters where they advocate a “comprehensive national high speed broadband policy to ensure that we all benefit from the telecommunications and information revolution.”

One of the areas they highlight is government:

Governments increasingly rely on the internet as the means to provide information and forms for taxes, government programs, eligibility criteria, and other uses.

People without access to such information are, in effect, penalized. Enrollment in the Medicare Part D drug plan, for example, relied on web-based communications.

High speed interactive broadband should allow citizens to increase and improve their ability to participate in civic life.

The challenge they identify is that “The United States has failed to bring the benefits of this telecommunications revolution to most of our population. While more households are adopting broadband, our relative position in the world is worsening.”

They note that there is very much still a digital divide:

There is an income digital divide: more than 62% of households with incomes over $100,000 subscribe to high speed broadband at home while just 11% of households with incomes below $30,000 subscribe.

There is a rural/urban digital divide: only 17% of adults in rural areas subscribe to broadband compared to 31% in urban and 30% in suburban areas.

And there is a farm/non-farm divide: only 15.8% of farm households have adopted broadband.

They further note that the FCC definition of “high speed” is tool slow and that “what Americans have come to expect from ‘high speed Internet’ is far slower than connections in other countries around the world.” A typical DSL line has a speed of 200 kilobits per second (Kbps) (the FCC definition of high speed). Compare that to the fact that other countries have already established goals of 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

The site has lots of information, a document library, five key principles for improving the US’s place in the high-speed Internet economy (U.S. is now 16th), a a blog, a speed test so you can find out how fast your own upload and download speeds are, and more.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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