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Wednesday June 24, 2020 |Notes

The digital divide harms digital commerce

There's a digital divide in America between those who have high-speed internet access and those without. Reliable access to high-speed internet has increased in importance since the beginning of the pandemic as commerce and social interaction has shifted to digital means at a rate never before seen.

Those on the wrong side of the digital divide are clearly at a disadvantage. When in person interactions are limited, it's much more difficult to work, learn, stream, and shop for food without a reliable internet connection. Unfortunately, it affects a significant yet unknown number of people in the United States, and is largely the fault of shortcoming of the FCC, as Karl Bode wrote in a post at Techdirt.

The government puts the figure at 21 million, but most studies show that’s a drastic undercount – Microsoft estimates it could be as many as half of all Americans.

Yet we're still throwing countless billions at broadband providers to fix a problem we don't actually understand. Often we don't understand it by design; lobbyists for the biggest broadband providers have for decades fought against more accurate broadband mapping, knowing full well it will only reveal the sorry state of US broadband availability and competition. And when ISPs are caught time, and time, and time again taking taxpayer subsidies for services only half deployed

In Seth Godin's recent Akmimbo podcast, he discussed how a lack of diversity holds us all back. In the idea economy, such as digital commerce, the winners bring new ideas together. The best ideas come from a variety of backgrounds.

By limiting the number of participants, digital commerce is held back both limiting the total market and by limiting the ideas that could be unlocked. Individuals without high-speed internet access almost certainly have a more original perspective than already included group.

It's time to start pressuring government and broadband to do more because reliable internet is no longer optional, it's a requirement to live well in modern American society.

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