I finally got to meet Anna Creech as well as a bunch of other great librarians when I was in Oregon. Anna has some notes from my talk as well as the two other speakers who gave presentations on the first day, Anthony Bernier and Rachel Bridgewater both of whom gave really interesting presentations that I was delighted to find myself sandwiched between.
All of us spoke a lot about recent data from the Pew Reports, many of which I was copying and pasting graphs from into my talk at the last minute [see geocities vs. myspace and encarta vs. wikipedia] and I even got to mention the Digital Divide a little. I was sorry that I wasn’t able to include information from Speed Matters, a site set up by the Communication Workers of American urging that the US develop a comprehensive broadband policy to ensure equitable broadband access for everyone. I just learned about the site from FreeGovInfo which discusses some of the different ways we still have a digital divide.
There is an income digital divide: more than 62% of households with incomes over $100,000 subscribe to high speed broadband at home while just 11% of households with incomes below $30,000 subscribe.
There is a rural/urban digital divide: only 17% of adults in rural areas subscribe to broadband compared to 31% in urban and 30% in suburban areas.
And there is a farm/non-farm divide: only 15.8% of farm households have adopted broadband.
Here’s some specifics about the Vermont situation and Verizon’s plan to sell off local access lines in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Here in Vermont that’s about 85-90% of the state’s phone lines. While I loved living in Topsham with our local telephone company Topsham Telephone, there’s a real problem when big businesses who were given favorable legislation to obtain monopolies in industries like telecommunications are then allowed cherrypick and jettison the less profitable areas.
This will affect me personally, as well as people in my town and county who are still waiting to have DSL available in their locations. As we learned from the Pew Reports, people who have faster connections do more online. More government information and resources are being moved online. More online content is becoming inaccessible to people who only have dialup connections. Getting broadband to the libraries is part of the equation, and an important part, but what are our other obligations to get our patrons and our neighbors on to the information superhighway at speeds that are adequate to do what they need to do?