Universal Broadband: If You Build it, Will they Come?
Since the early days of DSL, we’ve heard of the concept of universal broadband. And we’ve also heard that, in the US, pricing and penetration have caused us to lag behind other first-world nations in broadband connectivity. Enter new kid on the block, InternetforEveryone.org. It was founded to promote the cause, looking to the government for a mandate. Pointing to California as a poster child, it asserts that only 50 percent have broadband at home; that the financial digital divide is very real. It would appear that universal broadband does not mean universal demand. But I’m not so sure we’re seeing the whole picture. In fact, some studies actually put California at the head of the Internet ‘savvy’ frontier across home and business. While we may not have 100 Mbps to everyone’s front door, we know what to do with what we have. And, although some of us may not have broadband at home, we’re more than eager to take advantage of the connection from work. So, is it really a question of haves and have-nots? Is it connectivity, or is it something deeper?A recent article spotlighting a report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project cited multiple reasons for individuals’ resistance to shift from dial-up to broadband, including cost, lack of desire, and availability. So, although we must address availability and cost, we’ve also got to create a compelling event for the remainder of the population.For some, the recent spate of wildfires in California was a compelling reason to consult the Internet. I can relate to that. The San Jose Mercury News ran an article on fire zones, and I noticed that Los Gatos was right at the boundary of ‘severe risk.’ So I immediately went on-line to find maps and additional information. I was relieved to see that my address was in the clear. I understand the network, and its many advantages, such as playing a part in a political dialog that is increasingly on-line; seeking the lowest price on a new piece of AV gear through comparison shopping; or posting a resume on a job board. I’m sure everyone has a use s/he can relate to. We’ve just got to get this message out to those beyond the broadband curtain. In the same way that Cisco has taken a lead for over a decade in delivering information and communication technology skills to improve career and economic opportunities around the world through our Networking Academy, we can also take the lead in promoting the value and usefulness of broadband Internet in every community, regardless of size or location. I believe that if we build it, they will come.