Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"NPR : Rural Areas Demanding High-Speed Internet Access"

Hey, one of the nice things about the net is that not all your information has to be pulled down through the medium of text--though you couldn't tell it by reading this blog. So, for something a little different, I'd like you to direct to the aural medium of NPR--you can listen to a bit of your news today.

NPR's Morning Edition is running a series called "Digital Generations" which, it appears, will mostly focus on how different age cohorts use the internet and technology differenty.

The first installment in the series, however, looks at basic access noteing that folks in rural areas and the elderly are the two least-served populations. The show speaks with an older woman in Kurtztown, PA who was able to get inexpensive broadband through her municipality. They talk with her about how her family helped get it set up and motivated her use.

The story does what NPR does best--put a human face, or rather a human voice, on what would otherwise be a pretty cold story about the penetration rates of various technologies among the rural aged. Give it a listen at: NPR : Rural Areas Demanding High-Speed Internet Access

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear John, I have been wanting to write a Dear John letter for a long time so here it is....

Dear John, I wish to thank you for your post regarding the NPR series called the "Digital Generation". How insightful of you to take us to another level of awareness on these most critical issues. Please continue to keep us informed.

I listened with great interest to the broadcast and as I heard what Dorathy Fox said, I realized how her Internet access has had a subtle but powerful affect on her family. Their family values now include the desire and ability to share a PC with Dorathy, and the "world wide web" of information and adventures that she will now have access to in her small little hamlet in PA! She will have better communication with her kids, grandkids, old friends and new friends. I wish my mother and grandmother were still around so that Dorathy's story could be theirs also.

Know that I will be forwarding your link to many who need to be more informed. ACCESS IS THE ISSUE AND SPEED IS CRITICAL!!!!!

As the song goes, "Keep doing that thing you do"....because I and so many others will be reading and now listening...

John said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your remarks. Your response bolsters my intention, oft honored in the breach, to get more "dreaming"--stuff that helps us see how we can benefit from real broadband--into the mix here. Fighting the unfair tactics of those that fear municipal broadband and even getting involved in political and technical intricacies (as interesting as I find all that) are really only means to getting to the end of being able to use these new technologies to the benefits of friends and family.

My own interests are less in business applications (which understandably motivate many) and more in how these technologies can be used to support communities and sustain ties with others. While that may sound a little strange, since many folks seem to find technology alienating, my own sense is that what is coming will be more in the mode of the telephone than the television. We will be looking at communicating, not receiving. But for that to be useful to all we will, as you remark, need both ACCESS and SPEED. Everybody has to be able to have big broadband and everybody will need to be able to afford it. (Telephones that are only available only to a few are much less useful in communicating with others than telephones that are available to all.)

I think we can look forward to a day soon in Lafayette when folks will be have access to, and hopefully be able to afford, bandwidth in the 100 megabyte range with very cheap local or on-network storage ranging upward of a gigabyte. With that much access we could all have video phones to talk to granddkids across town, to show our daughters how to disjoint a chicken, or our sons how to braise a roast, or just to see the smile on the clerk at the local hardware store. We could send video's of a nephew's winning basketball shot to the kid's uncle who was always a fiend for sports. Big storage allows us to "halt" events so that they take place when we can gather to watch them with friends. I "TiVo" almost everything I watch these days and almost all of my TV watching (which has dropped dramatically since I spend more time online doing stuff like typing this post and doing online research) at my own, and more pointedly, my wife's, convenience. We wait to watch shows until we can watch together and have begun to feel free to pause and straighten out some confusing point before going on--together. (This is a great help in shows with complex plot lines, or subtleties like the Wire or the West Wing!) People can come over to watch they way the do for DVDs (another form of big storage). And I always have an episode of the Boohbahs or Teletubbies available for the youngest in the family. Turning TV into a social occasion isn't all that easy, but freeing yourself from the demand that you watch on the Network's schedule and at their pace goes a longer way than you would expect.

Like Dorothy in the NPR segment who got involved in finding local historical artifacts on the web, healthy access lets people get involved in the sorts of local interests that big media just doesn't encourage--in this, the web acts the way that local libraries have always acted, they encourage local interests as well as open folks up to a larger world. Lafayette has multiple communities with long and proud histories that tend to get short shrift from media which is all aimed at commercial or national markets. With its ethnic communities and unique forms of life, music, and food, Acadiana would benefit more than most communities from having the locally controlled, cheap, powerful "multi-medium" that big broadband and big storage represents. It could be a huge factor in preserving--and more importantly extending into the future in our own way--local cultures.

Incidently, the NPR series goes on. The installment on the 30th talks to a 7th grader who talks to his friends (privately--remember being in 7th grade!) using chat/irc sorts of applications. I like listening to NPR. Just being able to hear folks talking gives the information an entirely different emotional texture. The link is available at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4192022&sourceCode=RSSWhen I went to the site for the URL I found that today's installment in the series, "High-Speed Withdrawl," had been posted to the website as well. It explores how much folks who are used to high speed internet find their lives disrupted by giving it up. Get that one at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4194518Well, that went on for longer than I had expected! Thanks anonymous for the push to put some of my ruminations to (virtual) paper. I'd be curious as to what you and others make of this and what you'd like to see all that access and speed used for.