Monday, February 05, 2007

Digital Divide

The United States ranks 21st in Digital Opportunity Index according to the International Telecommunications Union. The index is a gross measure of the digital divide. Korea ranks number one and Japan, which ranks number two accounts for 80% of the current development of fiber (high-speed lines) to home installation. Yhe United States ranks behind Luxembourg and one spot ahead of Slovenia. According to the ICT the DOI is based on 11 core ICT indicators agreed on by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for development, grouped in 3 clusters: opportunity, infrastructure and utilization. The ICT notes that this measure might be valuable for predicting future potential to exploit emerging technology niches. The

The DOI is a more thorough measure of broadband penetration and better indicator of the divide. As FCC member Michael Copps wrote in a November Op-Ed the reason for our lagging status is because the ridiculous rates that high-speed providers are able to charge in a non-competitie market. Unfortunately, there is a divide even within the United States between those that have and those that cannot afford the rates. I just looked up the cost of cable internet in my neighborhood and found that it was $59/month and $49 for installation. Nearly $800 per year for high-speed internet service! So, in those areas of America where $800 a year is a stress on the pocketbook there is going to be even less boradband penetration. Those areas tend to be rural and urban poor.

It is alarming that the richest country in the world is only 21st on the DOI, but what is more staggering is the complete absence of outrage over the expanding digital divide within America. If access to obtain and create new information is going to be the difference maker in the future for the students of today, we have a moral obligation to help our less fortunate students cross the divide.

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