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More About the Digital Divide


Jonathan Adelstein appeared on C-Span recently. He was Brain Lamb's guest on The Communicators. Mr. Adelstein is an FCC Commissioner. Listening to him reminded me that there is still so much to do and talk about for those of us who worry about the digitaldivide both nationally and internationally.  According to the latest installment of the organization’s semiannual report, Mr. Adelstein mentioned the US is ranked 15th in the world among the 30 OECD countries in survey of broadband subscribers. That’s down from 4th in 2001. Unfortunately, for obvious political reasons which are evident if you read the full report, he did not mention the four suggestions made to help boost the US ranking. He mentioned we needed to set goals and create public and private partnerships to expand access to more people in the US. He said we are losing high tech jobs because of this. He said we need a commitment from the White House to assure more rural areas access to broadband and for a lower cost. The high cost in rural areas (when you can get it) is a hindrance because it curtails commercial activity and things like distance learning, which is critical especially given the high cost of fuel. I enjoyed his passion and advocacy for widespread and affordable broadband access. While the rate of adoption is a useful metric, it is an insufficient measure of a nation’s broadband performance. A more accurate metric also accounts for cost and speed”.
 
Internationally, I follow closely what is happening in Mexico. Alberto Morales wrote that Mexico is living in the Stone Age when it comes to Internet access. (You can read it in Spanish just click article of June 8th of this year, Alberto Morales El Universal)  I will summarize it by saying Mexicans pay the highest taxes for broadband access in the world, US$5 to $8 per 1MB while Japan pays US$0.30 per 1MB. Mexico's highest access speed is 1MB where in Japan you can get up to 61MB according to the article. Señor Morales cites a book by Raul Trejo Delabre, “La Nueva Alfombra Mágica” (The New Magic Carpet) Senor Trejo Delabre states that in Mexico the Internet continues to be “a privilege for the few who can afford it because taxes on the use are some of the highest in the world”. Like here in the US, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has promised a new initiative for extending broadband access to more citizens but to date there has been no cohesive plan brought forward. Here and internationally the digital divide is with us. The impediment has more to do with cost than anything else. We need to understand that success depends on becoming more competitive and productive in a global business environment that is predicated on broadband access for rapid access to information and for maintaining value creating networks. “Countries who are technological leaders become economic winners countries that are technological laggards become economic losers” wrote Lester Thurow in Head to Head in 1993.
 
It frustrates me when the less fortunate here and in Mexico do not have access to the Internet. We in the United States need to take a more active part in promoting access and at a more reasonable cost.
 

Posted by Anastacio on 7th August, 2008 | Comments | Trackbacks
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