Saturday, June 11, 2005

soapbox rambler

I got an email from a woman I met recently inviting me to a party. *Oh!* This party is a fundraiser to help her attend a conference overseas. *Gah!* Don't get me wrong, she seems very cool and her paper topic is very cool and the opportunity fabulous. But this keeps happening to me. It would appear that the new people I meet are only interested in me as a fool easily parted from her money. =P

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For the most part I have not given the digital divide, the consideration that I should. But it has been brought home to me in two ways.

The first was a conversation that I had with the bass player from Triple Whip. She said that an indy label owner advised that her band needed to have a strong "brick and mortar" presence. The idea being that it is not enough to have all the love and press the internet can offer you. To be 'fo real your CD has to physically be in places where people can buy them. Bringing home the fact that there are people who are not hooked into the internet who buy CD's.
(Besides which, some of us like to wander through the bins while we gossip with our friends and rave about the albums we love. Distribution is important.)

The second was at the Media Reform Conference in St. Louis. I went to the "Media Activism 101" session and was struck by an ancedote from one panel member about a cafe in a poorer primarily latino neighborhood where it was considered a major thing that the cafe had wireless internet but the only people in a position to use it were college students who brought their laptops. Most of the neighborhood was without a computer. This was coupled with the fact that at this session and every other session that I attended the catch phrase was : "For more information/to contact us you can go to our website - youcanonlyreachus_ifyouhaveaccesstoacomputerandinternet.org" Which leads me to wonder what a person is missing out on if she is not hooked into the web and alternatively what do people on the web miss out on due to the absence of folks who live primarily in the world of "brick and mortar." It becomes increasingly serious when you consider that a lot of government agencies (at least in the US) are doing more and more of their work through the internet. Yes, I know that you can get a desktop computer at Shoparooville for $400-$800 which doesn't seem like much and you can spend invisible plastic money to get it. But even that is out of the reach of some. Your movement, your message, your music needs to reach non-virtual folks. It must have a material reality.

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Where else does this rambly rambly go? In the event that more people get their shoparooville computer and want to get on the internet, it costs.

According to freepress.net, communities throughout the US are working to develop low-cost alternatives to DSL and cable internet. In response companies that provide internet services are trying to pass HR2726 through Congress the "preserving innovation in telecom act" that will prevent state and local governments from providing telecom, information or cable service in places where a corporation offers a similar service. They are trying to pass a law to protect themselves from competition from local governments. After all the talk about how the private sector is better than the government at everything I am amused to see telecomm businesses quaking in their slippers about the threat that community groups and local governments pose to their profit margins. This is not a nuanced pitch by any means, but hey, if this chaps your hide click here. (Yes, there is a typo in their e-letter but hopefully your congress person will still get the idea.) If not, well go send SBS, Verizon, and Comcast a valentine. I'm sure they would love it.

(in true biting the hand that feeds me fashion I am posting this from wireless to DSL provided by SBC. Maybe the companies would argue that they need to amass more capital to put into research for greater technological advances. Hell, I don't know. I've got the one side of this story. Drop me a comment with the other. But please be kind.)

And yes, I know, by posting this I am not getting the word out in brick and mortar fashion. But maybe we can make the internet more affordable and accessible for the time when all the brick and mortar folks do get their computer.
And yes, this last part of the ramble is parochial and specific to one corner of the world.

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