Jim Horton is amazed that so many people have yet to convert to broadband. It is not always so much that we don’t want to upgrade, or see the need for a faster connection, it’s that we can’t.
Sometimes, as in my case, the broadband simply isn’t available. While I’m aware there are other options, such as satellite, (only broadband one way) that still doesn’t solve the problem for those who both want and need a broadband connection. I’ve had to turn down several job offers for lack of that broadband, and for me that’s particularly frustrating.
Here in Yuma AZ, our local phone company, Qwest, is dragging its feet on bringing broadband to the same customers who use their phone service. I can kind of see their reasoning: our county is the size of Northern Ireland in area, with a total population of 200,000. Most of that population is huddled in the far southwest corner, with the major population centers already serviced with some sort of cable arrangement anyway, or don‘t care, so it’s only geeks like me who are outside cable and other service areas who are actually complaining.
Most of the US really still needs to catch up. I figure we’re right about where television was in the mid-50s. A lot of people had TVs, but it really wasn’t considered an important thing to have. We got a TV when my grandmother passed away in 1958, but when it broke, nobody knew how to fix it, so it was a few years before we bought another one. (My parents were strong believers in fixing things yourself.) The new TV broke within a few years; I remember watching the coverage of JFK’s assassination at a tire store. I spent most of my high school years watching TV at other people’s houses, and trying to figure out ways to get our AM radio to do better things.
I was for sure, ahead of the curve on the latest Top 40. I got to hear a lot of the radio interviews the Beatles and Stones did, and always knew where the important DJs were going to be appearing. (Radio DJs were as important as rock stars back then.) I and my little cadre of girlfriends got to meet a couple of big stars that way. That explains why I’m still such a big fan of local, over-the-air radio.
Anyway, I digress. ;>)
When we talk to our old friends backEast about Internet stuff, for them it is far from a necessity. I see the same sort of mindset when I’m out and about in my local community. For many people, the Internet is still a novelty, and the talk of computer virii and crashes (which the ISPs continue to promote) hasn’t helped. Way too many people still think of computers and the Internet as difficult and dangerous. Why get in to something that carries all this risk if you don’t have to?
For those of you who are new to computers and the online world, let me tell you I have had a computer since 1988, with four different computers over time, and never have experienced a hard drive crash. I was infected with a virus once, two years ago. That was my own fault, for doing something I knew was stupid. Because the anti-virus guys do keep up, it is no longer necessary to keep yourself informed. Get a good virus blocker and it does the deal on its own. And no, there is no way you can inadvertently push any button and crash everything.
Back to broadband – what I’m trying to put across is the fact that the reason so many do not have broadband is mostly that they don’t know they need it, for one, and for another, they probably can’t afford it. Why add 69 or 89 dollars a month to the household budget when it seems you’re only getting the same thing you always did, only a few seconds faster?
While I don’t intend to cast aspersions on the really neat things like podcasting and video/audio blogs, the reality is that most people just can’t participate. Doc Searls and Scoble are right about this variety of experience being available, and how it will change things, but right now only some people can access these things. I can’t spend several hours downloading a few-minute audioblog by Dave Winer, much as I’d like to hear him. When somebody posts a link to a news segment or commercial that I’d like to see, all I can do is take their word for what it was.
Most of us have one phone line and a 28-56k connection. Some of us have Internet answering service, but the majority does not.
I know how excited everyone is by these new developments and how much they would like the whole world to adopt these things. Right now, though, we the people can’t, because we can’t or don’t access them. One of the problems the tech community has in reaching out to those end-users who only want to send an e-mail, or view a website, is that we’re so far immersed in our tech we don’t get that your average man in the street has only a casual interest in what we’re doing over here.
We still need to explain to Mr. and Mrs. America why they need the Internet.