The article in question starts with this erroneous comment:
"I am low-income and computers are not low-income," says Marcella Morris,
sitting on the front step of her apartment building on a sweltering day last
A $50 used computer and under $20 per month gets one on the internet with
broadband quite adequately, and a dialup connection can be had for under $40
My contention is simply that cost is not the cause of the so-called "digital
divide". And that most low-income people in this country spend far more
than that on mindless entertainment, as do most people of any income level.
Let's get real here.
----Original Message Follows----
From: Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Science for the People Discussion List
<[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Binary America: Split in Two by A Digital Divide
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 16:26:35 -0500
I am uncomfortable with Eric's comment, which seems to be blaming the poor
for their lack of computer access.
I also think that on a list about science it ought to be possible to do
better than make claims that begin "I bet". Why not do a little research
At 1:31 PM -0400 7/24/07, Eric Entemann wrote:
>I'll bet a lot of lower-income people have big TVs and cable, but no
>computer or broadband. A computer that is adequate for broadband net
>access can bought new for little and used for almost nothing. The primary
>computer I use is an old Pentium 3 that has a value of maybe $50. And if
>need be, cable TV could be sacrificed for cable broadband. So no doubt
>choice is a big factor here.
>But, of course, much more needs to be done toward the provision of
>technology education and low-cost broadband. And more public access to
>computers on the internet as alternatives to libraries and schools and
>Starbucks. For example, when I visited Tucson three yy ago, I was pleased
>to find the Univ. of AZ computer center to be open long hours and to have
>free public access with no time limit. Every computer even had a CD burner
>available for downloads.
>----Original Message Follows----
>From: Sam Anderson <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Science for the People Discussion List
><[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Binary America: Split in Two by A Digital Divide
>Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 08:38:17 -0400
>Binary America: Split in Two by A Digital Divide
>By Jose Antonio Vargas
>Washington Post Staff Writer
>Monday, July 23, 2007; C01
>CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Less than a mile and a half from the Citadel, the site
>of the Democratic presidential debate tonight, sits Cooper River Courts, a
>public housing project. Forget the Web. Never mind YouTube, the debate's
>co-sponsor. Here, owning a computer and getting on the Internet (through
>DSL or cable or Wi-Fi) is a luxury.
>"I am low-income and computers are not low-income," says Marcella Morris,
>sitting on the front step of her apartment building on a sweltering day
>The unemployed 45-year-old adds: "I know how to use a computer. I just
>can't afford one right now."
>There exists "two Americas," as John Edwards, South Carolina's own son,
>likes to say: an America for the rich and an America for the poor. But what
>Edwards and the rest of the presidential field have yet to adequately
>address are the two Americas online: one that's connected to high-speed
>Internet -- socializing, paying bills, uploading debate questions to
>presidential candidates on YouTube -- and one that's not. This is the
>digital divide, now more than a decade old, a rarely discussed schism in
>which the unconnected are second-class citizens. In some parts of this
>so-called Internet ghetto, the screech of a telephone modem dialing up to
>get online is not uncommon. And with dial-up, YouTube is impossible to use.
>Between 40 to 45 percent of Charlestonians, city officials here estimate,
>subscribe to high-speed Internet. That figure is nearly in line with the
>national average, according to the nonpartisan group Free Press. And though
>a study released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project
>found that broadband use among African American adults increased from 14
>percent in 2005 to 40 percent this year, blacks continue to lag behind
>whites and English- speaking Latinos. In fact, a great number of American
>households , especially in rural areas and poorer parts of cities such as
>Charleston, are without broadband.
>And in a presidential election that's being fought as much online as off it
>-- all campaigns employ Web strategies -- some say the candidates have
>generally ignored the issue.
>"I would argue that the digital divide is worse than it was 10 years ago.
>Back then everyone -- schools, businesses -- was trying to get online.
>These days every single Fortune 500 company has its employees, its
>customers and its suppliers connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In
>the meantime, while our students have online access at school, many of them
>don't have it at home," says Andrew Rasiej, a member of a panel studying
>universal Internet access in New York, and co-founder of TechPresident, a
>nonpartisan blog that tracks the online campaign.
>"Our presidential candidates may all have BlackBerrys, but they have no
>vision when it comes to bringing all our citizens to the 21st century. If
>you go to look at the presidential candidate Web sites, the word 'Internet'
>practically doesn't exist. Breaking the digital divide has not been
>recognized as a critical issue," Rasiej continues.
>Two months ago, TechPresident challenged the candidates to adopt specific
>policies to get everyone online. "Declare the Internet a public good in the
>same way we think of water, electricity, highways," reads a policy
>statement. "Commit to providing affordable high-speed wireless Internet
>access nationwide," reads another. So far most of the candidates have not
>adopted any of it, Rasiej says.
>"At one level, the YouTube debate shows that the Web has really become a
>centerpiece of American political culture," adds Lee Rainie, director of
>Pew Internet. "At another level, it also shows that the debate is not for
>everybody. It's certainly not available to all Americans."
>That is especially true at Cooper River Courts, where Tiara Reid, 14, in
>her jeans shorts and pink striped top, runs up and down the complex asking
>friends if anyone wants to go the library. Finally her mom, Jossie, who
>works at a deli, drives her and a neighbor's daughter. With school out and
>without Internet access at home, the library is the only place where she
>can go on the Web -- for a maximum of two hours a day. Says Tiara: "It's 10
>minutes to get to the library if someone drives you. It's 15 minutes if you
>take the 30 bus. It's about 30 minutes if you walk." On the library's
>second floor, she folds herself up on a chair and updates her MySpace
>profile, sends e-mails on her Yahoo! account and, if there's time, surfs
>Across from the Reids' apartment stands LaToya Ferguson, holding her
>grandson Marquis. She's one of the few residents here to have Internet
>access at home. It's a sense of pride for her. "You're falling behind if
>you're not online, now that's the truth," says Ferguson, a nail technician
>in her 30s.
>Nearby Marcella Morris runs after her son Donny, who's nearly 2. Morris
>says she relies on "the three F's" -- food stamps, family and friends -- to
>provide for Donny and her 7-year-old daughter, Jordan. Money's tight. She
>has a phone, subscribes to cable, but that's it. No cellphone, no car, no
>computer. At 3 in the morning, when an infomercial about the Web-based
>Specialty Merchandise Corp.comes on TV, she dreams of owning a business,
>A few weeks ago, she signed up for a computer program at Trident Literacy
>Association, a 10-minute walk from her apartment. At the end of the
>10-week program, she will receive a refurbished computer, free.
>"Never too late to start, right?" Morris says. "But after I get the
>computer I have to worry about the Internet."
>It's a familiar story around the country, even in places as Internet- savvy
>as San Francisco, Chicago and the District. Who can get online? Who can't?
>And what can be done about it?
>Charlestonians pay as little as $20 or as much as $99 (which covers phone,
>cable and the Internet) a month to get online, depending on the package.
>There are a few free Wi-Fi "hot spots" in town, such as the Cereality cafe
>on King Street, where a cappuccino costs $2.99.
>Nearly two years ago, officials vowed to spread Internet access across the
>city. An initiative called the Charleston Digital Corridor selected a
>proposal to build a citywide Wi-Fi grid. It was meant to give everybody
>free Wi-Fi -- and the city didn't even have to pay for it. As in other
>municipalities that are developing public Wi-Fi projects, now numbering
>around 400, the goal is twofold: to empower small businesses and to plug
>poorer neighborhoods such as Cooper River Courts into the online world.
>But like other cities, including San Francisco, Charleston has struggled
>with its Wi-Fi project. The city originally said the service would be up
>and running at the end of 2005. It was delayed. Twice. When it finally was
>launched last spring, the Wi-Fi reached only about 30 to 40 percent of its
>And the Charlestonians tapping into the free Wi-Fi network -- sometimes
>more than 200 surfers a day -- were largely the ones who could already
>afford to pay for it.
>Now the citywide Wi-Fi project is in limbo. But Ernest Andrade, head of the
>Digital Corridor, is optimistic: "We're evaluating right now and I know
>that we'll bring Wi-Fi access to the rest of this city," he pledges. Morris
>sounds upbeat, too. She plans on sticking with her 10-week computer
>course. "Not having the Internet in this day and time makes me feel
>disconnected from a whole other world. Things I could see, things I could
>hear, things I could do.
>"I could take my kids to other places on the Internet," says Morris as
>Donny naps on her lap. "Sometimes I feel shortchanged. Not envious, but
>She just turned 45 three days ago. By her 46th birthday, she hopes to own
>a computer -- and be online.
>s. e. anderson (author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners" - Writers +
>Readers) + http://blackeducator.blogspot.com
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