Bridging The Digital Divide

Transforming Rural Economies: Bridging The Digital Divide (excerpt)
by Maine State Representative Diane Russell

Growing up in Bryant Pond, about as rural as it gets in Maine, taught me a little something about being at the tail end of innovation. The last crank phone operator station in the country was located right down the street from our home. While the celebrity status is great, the educational piece was the vigorous debate over whether or not our town should upgrade to that fancy new technology — the dial tone.

Read the rest of her article

Wayne Caswell (Modern Health Talk) posted the following comment:

We all know that technology and the Internet are keys to telemedici­ne, telework (jobs), distance learning, e-commerce­, and e-governme­nt, but the latest FCC report to Congress says a full one-third of U.S. households lack broadband access. That’s either because they have no access to it or because it’s too expensive or they lack the skills or perceived need.

So, are we willing to write-off entire sectors of our population and give them inferior healthcare and access to jobs, commerce and government because they’re poor, black, Hispanic, elderly, live in rural communitie­s, and don’t have broadband Internet access? Or are we going to fund computer literacy and universal access to broadband? Which is cheaper or better? We can’t always rely on Market Forces. Sometimes public funding is warranted – like NOW (or actually 20 years ago).

FCC’s Broadband Progress Report Highlights Concerns

FCC logoTelemedicine and many of the high-tech home healthcare solutions we write about depend on high-speed access to the Internet, but only 65% of homes have broadband. That’s why I was so interested in the FCC’s recent status report to Congress.

Seventh Broadband Progress Report and Order of Reconsideration

The report shows that:

  • Too many Americans still are unable to fully participate in our economy and society because they lack basic broadband services.
  • Some 26 million Americans live in areas that are unserved by broadband.
  • A full one-third of U.S. households don’t subscribe due to other barriers such as cost and lack of literacy or perceived need.
  • Adoption rates are lower among blacks, Hispanics, rural, low-income, less educated, disabled, seniors and the unemployed.
  • The costs of digital exclusion are high and growing, limiting healthcare, educational, and employment opportunities that are essential for consumer welfare and America’s economic growth and global competitiveness.

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