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The Obama administration is looking for new ways to bring access to the digital divide

It's hard to imagine any American without an Internet connection when people are often seen with their faces buried in smartphones, tablets and laptops. PCs and mobile devices have certainly become ubiquitous over the years, but for different reasons, not everyone is connected.

According to The New York Times, around 20 percent of American adults who do not have Internet connectivity in any way, whether it's at home, work, school or by a mobile device. 

A report titled "Exploring the Digital Nation," which was conducted by the Commerce Department and is based in 2011 data, shows the differences in Internet adoption rates throughout the U.S. based on parameters such as age, race, location, education and income. 

The report stated that only slightly more than half of Americans ages 65 and older use the Internet. Conversely, about 75 percent of those under 65 use the Internet. 

As far as race goes, 76 percent of white American households have Internet connectivity compared to 57 percent of African-American households. 

Internet use is lowest in the South, where Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas are the least connected.

Finally, the report shows that Internet use is more prevalent in households with an income of more than $50,000 a year and some college education. 

The NYT article states that many Americans are lost in the digital gap for several reasons, including high costs of broadband services, a lack of computer skills and disinterest in technology in general. 

The Obama administration worries that many Americans are being shut out of jobs, health care and education because of their lack of computer skills. Many job applications, health care applications and school work must be completed on computers, and the administration is looking to close that gap.

In 2009, President Barack Obama launched a $7 billion effort to expand broadband access to all Americans who lacked Internet connectivity. So far, it has proved pretty effective: about 50 percent of those infrastructure programs have been completed, and Internet availability has grown from 90 percent before the program to 98 percent today. 

Also, about $500 million of that $7 billion went toward helping people learn to use the Internet. It has brought half a million new household subscribers to Internet service.

While this has helped, the report claims that there needs to be more programs available for those who can't afford Internet service. Some already exist, such as Internet Essentials program, which offers broadband service for $10 a month to low-income families. It has been pretty effective with 220,000 households out of 2.6 million eligible homes in Comcast service areas signing up.

In 2011, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates partnered with former U.S. President Bill Clinton to bring Internet access to the digital divide. 

However, administration officials feel more progress could be made. 

Source: The New York Times

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RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By Motoman on 8/20/2013 4:36:11 PM , Rating: 0
And although it's not really part of this discussion (i.e. whether or not they *have* internet at all), I feel compelled to point out that something like 45 million Americans have no access to real broadband. Which is to say, cable, DSL, fiber, etc.

No, satellite doesn't count. Firstly because it's data capped, but also because it's useless for online gaming. To wit, from the Hughes Net website:

HughesNet Gen4 service plans will work with many features offered through gaming services such as Xbox LIVE® and the PlayStation Network. You will be able to download games and game updates, and use the streaming video and music services offered through your gaming system, such as Netflix® and Hulu™. However, the majority of real-time, multi-player games that people play on Xbox LIVE and PlayStation will not work over any satellite Internet service. Strategy and "turn-based" games will work but games requiring a rapid response such as "first-person shooters" will be unplayable.

With satellite service, the data must travel up to the satellite and back (about 45,000 miles). This round trip adds about a half-second delay to the total time your computer takes to communicate with a Website or host server. That will prevent real-time, multi-player games from establishing or maintaining a reliable connection with the gaming server.

If you're lucky enough to be close to a cellphone tower, you can get cellular wifi - but again that's capped.

I'd really like to see more of a push to get DSL to rural communities - if not somethine else like powerline internet. Ultimately there's going to be some farmer who's 100 miles from anything else in any direction, so he's just never going to get broadband - but there's far too many Americans who are denied broadband internet when they're really not in what most city-slickers even think of as "rural" areas.

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By kingmotley on 8/20/2013 6:02:40 PM , Rating: 2
Of course, cable and DSL from the major providers is also capped. So discounting all forms of internet that are "capped", that would leave approximately 100.1% +- 2% of Americans without internet.

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By Motoman on 8/20/2013 7:37:24 PM , Rating: 2
Not really.

When I'm talking about "capped" above, it's something like a max of 10Gb per month for cellular wifi. Maybe 40Gb on satellite...which as noted is utterly useless to you if you play video games anyway.

The broadband "caps" that get bandied about are frequently not hard & fast like cellular/satellite...and generally start at about 200Gb per month anyway. Which for the *vast* majority of all users is essentially uncapped. I'd guess something like 97.9%, +/- 2%, of all DSL/cable/fiber optic customers have all the bandwidth they could possibly want.

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By PrinceGaz on 8/21/2013 8:12:48 AM , Rating: 2
Most people aren't interested in playing online games and couldn't care less about not being able to do so on a satellite internet connection.

I certainly couldn't survive with just 40Gb (never mind just 10Gb) of data per month though; a single DVD-5 movie and that's the whole month gone! An average of a gigabyte per day is more in line with my typical usage, and I don't download all that much content, so I'd need a cap of no less than 30GB per month (and preferably more like 100GB so that I never have to bother about it).

By spamreader1 on 8/21/2013 10:02:15 AM , Rating: 2
Not just games though. I'm one of those with cellular, not too long ago it was a 5GB cap and $.05/MB, yes that per MB. I would often have a $250-300 internet bill. Now it is more reasonable, at $10/GB over the 5GB, but ATT will still send you nasty grams and threaten to cut your access.

My wife goes on facebook once or twice a day, I browse a few low bandwidth sites at home ( <5MB ) plus both of us accessing email, looking random things up on bing/wiki, and my kids might get 1 day a week to play something called webkins (about ~100MB/week). We have strict rules to limit websites that have any form of streaming video and still our usage averages between 6-8GB a month. And by any form of streaming video I mean even isn't allowed due to thier streaming ads.

I have to remote into work when I'm on call periodically, which might use ~100MB-150MB a week in bandwidth. Because of this requirment to use RDP over vpn, I have to have something with decent response time. Satalite has a given ~700ms response time due to the signal having to travel so far (LEO and back) Where 3g had response times of in the 50ms range, and my current LTE connecting gets closer to 30ms.

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By Dorkyman on 8/21/2013 9:17:50 AM , Rating: 2
So satellite doesn't count because you can't play games on it?

I guess that would matter to a few people. For the rest of us it would make no difference. We use the Internet to be, you know, productive.

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By Motoman on 8/21/2013 11:44:03 AM , Rating: 2
Uh-huh. So you don't download anything? Don't stream anything? Don't do anything online other than check your email and poke people on Facebook?

If so, then great. But the reality is that satellite (and cellular wifi) really prevent you from participating in the modern online world.

By brasstax on 8/22/2013 12:34:26 AM , Rating: 2
There is nothing intrinsic about satellite's current bandwidth cap, it's simply a matter of cost. There is, however, an intrinsic latency added due to our current understanding of physics, though I suppose a LEO network like Iridium sat phones use could reduce this limitation (though cost there is pun intended).

That said, there is currently little that relies on low latency access, with day trading, gaming and VoIP being the exceptions that come to mind. Given that at least 2 of these could probably be considered vices, I certainly hope the government is not concerned with them.

As cloud computing grows, however, I suspect latency will become increasingly important.

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By Labotomizer on 8/21/2013 9:03:36 AM , Rating: 2
You're a little too focused on the gaming aspect. Online gaming certainly isn't a "need". Although internet isn't a "need" either for some people. I couldn't go without it, but I also couldn't do my job without it.

I'm not sure at what point we decided the government needs to step in to get people internet. I think that's ridiculous. Phone service, at home, is something that is required in case of an emergency. Anything more than that is a luxury.

Of course, does this mean places that charge luxury tax on things like high speed internet will stop doing so? Probably not...

RE: Something doesn't make sense...
By Motoman on 8/21/2013 11:42:22 AM , Rating: 1
First of all, no one said anything about getting the government involved.

Secondly...forget gaming. Digital distribution, the apparent "savior" of modern society, basically doesn't work if you don't have real broadband.

Say you want to use Netflix for HD movie is something like a 3.5Gb stream. Just one movie is a significant chunk of your monthly allotment.

And that's just one example. Satellite is passable as "basic" internet connectivity...but you really can't participate in the vast majority of modern online life that way.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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