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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  July 2007

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE July 2007

Subject:

Re: Binary America: Split in Two by A Digital Divide

From:

Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 16:26:35 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (195 lines)

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 first?

--PG

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 
>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 Disney.com.
>
>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 
>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 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
>
>_________________________________________________________________
>Local listings, incredible imagery, and driving directions - all in 
>one place! http://maps.live.com/?wip=69&FORM=MGAC01

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