The US and the “New Digital Divide”

When most people think about the digital divide, what usually comes to mind is the comparison between the poor, rural farmer in a developing country and the rich, city dweller in the developed, most likely Western country. In class, however, we discussed the prevalence of many other types of digital divides and how unequal access to ICTs exists between genders, age groups, education levels, and various other demographics. This 2011 article discusses the digital divide within the United States between those who can afford to pay for fast, cable-based internet systems in their homes and that growing number of people who rely on smart phones with data plans to provide them with internet access. The author, Susan Crawford, refers to these groups as “high-speed wired and second-class wireless”. Crawford blames the skewed levels of internet access on deregulation which has allowed a few giant companies to monopolize the market and jack up prices, and highlights the fact that many of the smart phone-only users will find themselves left behind as the use of the internet as a business tool continues to increase. Despite the fact that this article is months old, it still provides an interesting look into the existence of the digital divide within our own country.

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3 responses to “The US and the “New Digital Divide”

  • margaretvariano

    This is an interesting point of view on the digital divide and particularly the internet. I also tend to think of the digital divide as being between developed and developing countries or rural and urban settings. I posted a similar article that talked about a different side of digital divide. I like your article because in a world where we all worship the internet so much and depend on it for so much, it can also have a harmful aspect. To hear someone say that the internet could have “worrisome implications for our economy and society” is different and interesting.

  • zgoldmann

    The number of ways that lives are effected by not having personal computers with adequate modern internet connections are kind of stunning.

    The article begins with a comment about internet commerce. Take Black Friday for example. Say you are an upper-middle class American with access to a personal computer and good internet. At this point in time many stores are offering the same Black Friday deals online as they are in stores. This allows people to stay home, work, be with family etc, without having to stand in lines of thousands of people. Now say you are one of those people in the US who can’t afford a personal computer, or if you can, can’t afford the monthly internet bill. You may then find yourself standing outside a department store at 2am, waiting to push through the crowd to get one of those items that is also available online. This takes you away from your family, your work, your loved ones. You may spend hours doing something that takes the person with internet 10 minutes.

    I think this article makes a really good point that mobile internet probably can’t replace replace a personal computer internet connection at this point in the US, and that it needs to be made a viable option for everyone by regulating companies in order to bridge the digital divide.

  • gmizrahi

    It is interesting that a part of this call is for greater government regulation. Although logically it seems to make sense, the question could be raised as to whether it is really practical, since there is corruption in many countries in the developing world.

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