It appears that Congress may soon weigh in on weather municipal governments should provide internet access by implementing large scale wireless broadband infrastructures. Philadelphia is among the governments that are leading the charge in this area, although some cities out west have been after this for some time now.
There are a number of arguments for and against municipal broadband initiatives ““ some hold water, some don’t. One of the more compelling for proponents (and repelling for opponents) is that municipal broadband initiatives will help bridge the “Digital Divide.” Dianah Neff, CIO for the City of Philadelphia, speaking in support of the City’s plan said:
Our focus is that 75 to 85 percent of our population in our low-income and minority areas that don’t have access. When we talked to them and we did surveys with them, they said 76 percent of the time that cost was the No. 1 reason why they didn’t have access to the Internet.
Those critical of such plans do make a good case on at least one point: simply providing access to the Internet does not address the number of other factors that challenge citizens in fully exploiting this resource. A number of other factors can impede a person’s ability to utilize the Internet ““ education, reading ability, general computer literacy to name just a few.
One of the significant benefits of using the telephone as a delivery mechanism for Internet service and content is that it can help address some of these basic computer and Internet acclimation issues. The degree of telephone literacy among citizens far out paces computer literacy ““ stated bluntly, phones are a lot easier to use than computers.