Media Technology

Richer, better-educated and connected: the Digital Divide continues to languish

While the explosive growth of mobile technologies appears to span all income levels fairly equally, Pew Research’s Director Lee Rainie demonstrates in a recent presentation that not much at all has changed in terms of home access and the Digital Divide.

The numbers are shocking in their uniformity. For nearly every category of Internet access – from simply being on the Internet to broadband access – the same proportion of higher-income and better-educated respondents report high adoption rates while the lower-income and less-educated respondents report very low adoption rates. 97% of college-educated and 98% earners of incomes in excess of $75k are on the Internet, compared to 45% of those with no high school diploma and 65% of those earning less than $30k.

To some extent this is certainly a product of our upwardly-mobile society: because you don’t have a degree now does not mean you won’t in the future, at which point with a higher income, you will likely invest in broadband Internet access. However, for those whose incomes do not change or do not change much, this is a real trap. And as our society becomes increasingly dependent on the Internet, there is always the threat that this disparity could become self-perpetuating, with low-education consumers barred from access to the information store of the world.

That mobile adoption has increase at a rapid rate may or may not be a comfort to those concerned with Internet access disparity. While mobile apps and Internet have increased in their proliferation and usefulness, a phone or tablet simply does not offer the range of potential uses that a desktop or laptop does. Not to mention the bandwidth restrictions that come with using wireless broadband.

Digital Differences and Money | Pew Research Centers Internet & American Life Project.

LATE UPDATE:  Interestingly, Pew Internet just put out a poll today that says, of the one in five Americans who do not use the Internet, about half of them say they’re just not interested. How does this reflect on what we know so far about income and education disparity? I wonder what these numbers look like if you break them down by similar demographics?


Time Warner Considering Capping Your Internet Connection

Do you watch a lot of YouTube? Do you check out blogs like Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo that employ a fair amount of video in their reporting? Have you been downloading files from iTunes for your iPod? Well, Time Warner wants to put a stop to all that. They’re looking, along with Comcast and a great many other providers, to put a cap on the amount of data you can download under their basic plan and then charge you overage for every gigabyte you download over that. Think “I’m over on my anytime minutes,” and you’ll get the picture.

Now, I realize that not everyone is as savvy when it comes to technology lingo, and the below-quoted article definitely delves into that dark continent more than your average. Still, there’s plenty here that most Internet users should understand and be worried about, so have a read:

Cable Broadband Users, Get Ready For Overage Fees – Clear caps? Great. $1.50/GB Overage fees? Wait a !@$% minute… –

It’s a constant meme thrown out by network neutrality supporters, but it’s true. The future consists of any number of bandwidth eating services that haven’t been invented yet. The present consists of multiple, independent operators trying to force high-definition content down Comcast’s pipe. DirecTV is launching an HD-delivery system that uses your bandwidth as a VOD delivery vessel.

Time Warner Cable’s overage trials involve caps ranging from 5GB to 40GB per month.
If we agree that independent video is a direct and serious threat to
Time Warner Cable television revenue, and we agree that the bandwidth
needed for HD services will only grow, then what stops any cable
operator from lowering the definition of “reasonable consumption” to
deter use of competing HD services?


“Openness” as Defined by Verizon

Verizon plans on holding a developer’s conference in mid-March to show developers what can be expected of Verizon’s new “open” network rules. Those of you watching this story may know that, while the move to open the network was widely lauded, the details of that openness have been modified somewhat.  Existing customers (all 64 million of them) will not be able to unblock their phones for use win that brave new world, for example.

And of course, even the most optimistic of observers realize that the move to open the network came as a response to Congress’ new broadband rules requiring networks operating on the new 700mhz bandwidth to be unrestricted. These rules, by the way, are the same as those that are forcing television stations onto High Def signals.  In our increasingly wireless world, Congress and the FCC are trying to free up bandwidth, but in doing so, they are also imposing rules to increase competition and information freedom.

I know that a lot of my readers will find all this remarkably unimportant, with everything else that is going on right now.  But consider the fact that we all write and read the blogs of our choices on an inherently open system called “The Internet.”  That Internet’s content is increasingly being viewed and written on wireless systems such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint control.  It is very much in the interest of the blogging community to keep information flow free.