Pew Research put out a poll. 47 million Americans don’t use the internet at all. 15% of American people. The internet has made my life a lot easier. But, I will admit it can suck you in and be a time waster.
It seems that my macroeconomics professor was right when he asserted that it takes 30 years for a big technological/industrial/societal change to take full hold and realize the gains it promises. In the case of the printing press, people had to learn to read and books had to be printed. In the case of the internet, a large percentage of old people don’t use it. They find it too hard to learn. Four-in-ten adults ages 65 and older (39%) do not use the internet, compared with only 3% of 18- to 29-year-olds.
Rural Americans are 2x as likely as those who live in urban or suburban settings to never use the internet. This makes total sense since running cable to rural settings is expensive. I recently saw a story about a rural school district in Calhoun County Mississippi that had difficulty getting telco’s to run cable so their students had access. In this day and age, no access means you are automatically behind. The school district decided to work up their own bid, and guess what. With the threat of competition, the telco’s ran high speed internet lines into the county so the children had access.
I foray into rural America a lot and I have noticed huge slowdowns in internet speed and lack of cell service. That’s a big deal. Today, in order to be part of the creative class, you need the internet. I have read a couple of books about creativity in the future and it is possible to be extremely creative in rural areas. But, in order for that creativity to really grab hold and spread through society, it has to be validated socially by people. That happens in cities, or on the internet.
I can remember deer hunting in rural Illinois. We couldn’t use our cell phones to communicate because the cell service wasn’t very good. We used walkie talkies.
I think this is where companies like Veniam could be big. If I were a school district, I would put Veniam equipment on every school bus. If I were a municipality, I’d put it on every public vehicle. I’d create my own huge mesh network.
Racial and ethnic differences also cause people to not use the internet. One fifth of African Americans and 18% of Hispanics do not use the internet, compared with 14% of whites and only 5% of English-speaking Asian-Americans – the racial or ethnic group least likely to be offline.
City and suburban people are out of touch with the problems encountered by rural America. You almost have to live their daily to understand them. Imagine the little companies that could be created if they had better internet access and were able to spread ideas faster.
I don’t think that we should create an internet REA. I am a strong supporter of changing laws and regulations to increase competition and make it easier to start internet service providers.