Last week Utterly Orange commented on how natural disasters and use of social media to distribute information can have mixed results, but we have to remember that there is still a significant portion of the population that has little or no access to the internet. With the census data released earlier this week on the nation’s poverty rates, nearly 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty. How does access to the internet stack up in their list of priorities? We know the internet is the backbone through which carries the “nerve impulses” and provide structural support for the modern commerce and communication world which we live. As long as portions of the population continue to have limited or no access to the internet, the fragmentation between consumption and distribution channels will continue to grow.
Over the history of mass communication, new technologies always require an entrance fee, as is the case given the capitalistic economy which we live. Once radio became widespread, people had to buy receivers and the same was true with television and telephone. Eventually the components for all became so cheap that cheap “low functioning” versions of the radio, television and phone can be found in all sorts of common items.
Every step we take toward a more wired world means our dependency on these technologies continues, but for the third time in the history of mass communication we have toll collectors who don’t want to play fairly. Whether they throttle data pipes or have regional monopolies on high speed service, the companies who provide internet service to many areas of the US have the deck stacked in their favor.
Case in point with the recent announcement by Comcast to offer $10 internet and $150 laptop coupon to those who qualify for the program aimed largely at those with low income levels. Don’t get all warm and fuzzy just yet, this deal only comes as a stipulation from the Comcast and NBC Universal merger so intentions may not be as clear and friendly as the press makes the gesture out to be.
Companies claim that they are reluctant to enter the social and digital arenas since those channels may not reach their target audience. That sentiment cannot be argued with and the Comcast deal will lessen he divide, but as the market gets more competitive (and less competitive at the same time with upcoming T-Mobile/AT&T deal) consumers options become harder. We need wide spread adoption of internet and availability to all in order to expand the penetration and adoption of online services which can provide incredible services to the full gamut of users. As marketers, technologists and citizens, remember that while profits are often the goal, we must remember to focus on providing services and methods of consumption which can increase the availability of the internet in the homes of every person in this country which will ultimately give us more data and a superior conduit to each person.
Author: John Carew
Photo Credit: Jeremy Noble “UBERCULTURE“