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
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 last week.
>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
>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,
>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, she says.
>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
>"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 intended coverage.
>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 shortchanged."
>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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