The Truth Behind the Broadband Stimulus Argument

September 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm (broadband, Dial up, DSL) (, , , , )

In my last post, I discussed an article that proposed that the government has a duty to provide broadband Internet to rural areas. Here are the reasons leading up to this conclusion—but this time we’re looking at the whole picture. This information is based on my knowledge as a technician for an Internet provider and my extensive research on the subject.

More and more people are using the Internet. Yes, this is very true. In fact, the U.S. is nearly saturated with Internet services and one of the leading countries with broadband access. The growth of Internet usage just within the last five years is staggering, with many people signing up for more Internet access daily.

The Internet is becoming a larger venue for business and education. The majority of businesses have websites, and many of them take and ship orders online. Online college classes are still being taken with people getting degrees later in life. Private education for grade-school ages are offering online courses. The Internet provides a vast, no, gargantuan collection of educational information that was once contained only in books and libraries. Read my post about “necessities” that have been replaced by the Internet and technology. The Internet has, in a very short time-span, transformed our language, social habits, culture, and communication. Its actually kind of overwhelming to think about. And the advancements and changes not slowing down one bit!

People who do not have access to the Internet lack the ability to gain from these advancements. Quite true! It would be foolish to deny this. But how many people truly have NO access to the Internet? There are MANY ways to access the Internet:

  • Home/relative/friend’s house

  • School/Work

  • Library/Coffee shops/other Public areas

  • Cell phones/any area with a wireless hotspot

  • ANY home/building with a land line phone (dial-up)

  • ANY home/building with a clear view of the Southern sky (satellite)

Granted, there are some people who have many more options than others. I am not denying that there are “underserved” U.S. residents. I am saying that it would be foolish to assume that just because many people can’t get common types of broadband in their home doesn’t mean that a) they have no access to the Internet elsewhere, or that b) they don’t have any form of Internet access in their home, or that c) people without Internet access in their homes must have it in their homes in order to become educated and conduct business.

Most people do have some form of Internet access even if it isn’t broadband or isn’t provided directly to their home. Those that have no access any type of Internet services whatsoever are a very small percentage of U.S. residents. The number of businesses in this situation is even smaller.

Many Internet and phone companies have essentially given up on being able to afford providing broadband to certain areas. There are some places, like my house, where they don’t bother to install cable or DSL lines for obvious reasons.

  1. The cost of installing the equipment necessary to provide these services to scattered rural homes would be enormous.
  2. The income from rural customers willing to order the service would never pay the costs of installation.

  3. Even if they did bother to run all these lines, etc., we are too far away from the source of the digital provider for a strong enough signal to reach our house.

These companies are not being petty losers. It’s just really not within reason. There are many more complications that would take more time to explain (and perhaps I will post about  it later). The stimulus money will help, but it’s not going to solve our problems alone. We’re going to need even more money–and probably several years if we really want to provide affordable broadband to all the rural and low-income areas. There’s a long road ahead of this ambitious venture.

In the next few days I’d like to wrap up this discussion. Stay tuned! And feel free to comment! I’d love to hear from you!

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Stimulus Money for Broadband Boosts Economy?

August 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm (broadband, Internet surfing) (, , , , , , , )

In my search of news and blogs related to my niche, I run across articles discussing the billions of stimulus dollars being given to telephone and Internet companies to get broadband access to rural America. Yes, that would be nice. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 31% of rural America has broadband—that’s more than 2 out of every 3 rural homes are on dial-up or don’t have Internet services at all. Of course people who use the Internet prefer broadband over dial-up (assuming we don’t discuss costs). But why spend all that government money on getting broadband in the middle of a recession? I am one of those people who lives in the country and I have dial-up, but I oppose these gargantuan spending moves.

For one, many rural people are farmers and have other outdoor occupations. That’s what you do when you have the outdoors all around you! Sure, there’s probably a lot of people that would enjoy having broadband in their homes, but how will that improve the economy?

In every article that I read about increasing broadband availability and how it will boost the economy, there is a story about Mrs. So-and-so who needs broadband Internet to improve her online business, etc. Is that a substantial justification for spending billions of dollars to make broadband available—the presumption that entrepreneurs all over rural America need to get their online business off the ground?

This got me thinking. What is the Internet for, to the majority of America? What do people spend the most time doing when they are online? Is it work and business related? I will discuss my research over the next several posts, and I hope you find them as interesting as I did.

First, I ran a search query for the top most popular websites. The first result was blocked on my work computer for nudity and the like. Well that’s inspiring! Moving on.

Here’s a list of most popular websites according to Alexa.com. NOTE: I did not include any search engine websites, like Google (which is number one), because we can’t tell whether it was used for work or pleasure (I may research most popular search queries later).

  1. Facebook—Hmm… social networking! Ok, sure, some people are using Facebook for work and advertising, but it’s mainly used for personal, social, and entertainment purposes.
  2. Youtube—Watching movies? Yes, this should boost our economy.

  3. Blogger.com—Another form of social networking, focused on posting opinions and stories.

  4. Myspace—Anyone see a pattern?

  5. Twitter—…billions of dollars so more people can tweet! How exciting!

  6. Rapidshare—A website where you can upload and share large files. Could be work-related.

  7. Microsoft Corporation—Now here’s a possible serious, work-related site—than again, you’re probably doing window’s updates, or trying to fix your Windows computer…again.

  8. WordPress.com—Oh cool! I’m on wordpress.com right now!

  9. Ebay—now this site could definitely be a small business/work related site! …and also a very popular shopping site.

  10. Craigslist—see entry above.

I’m sure that the argument could be made that businesses can benefit from social networking sites, which is clearly at an all time high. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t go as far to suppose that even half of the social networking going on every day has anything to do with entrepreneurship, job seeking, or business advancement.

We also see a clear trend in online shopping and advertising, which can help improve the economy in some ways. I would agree with the theory that making broadband more widely available would increase the amount of money spent on online purchases, or as a result of online advertising. While spending and ecomonic success are correlated, it’s not a causal relationship. I would venture to say that we’ve already learned our lesson in that area–but that is for another discussion! :-D

More research to come! Please feel free to comment!

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