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The digital divide: The cause of poverty in America, or just the latest tscam on the poor?

Most of us have heard this claim:  There exists a “digital divide” between the poor and the rich.  Those who don’t have internet are getting farther behind those (the rich supposedly) who do because they don’t have access to the same internet tools that are (supposedly) so vital to their success.  Let’s take a closer look at this:

Let me preface my response with the following:  This report misses the mark by a mile and assumes that one minor symptom of being poor could actually be the root cause of being poor.  Being poor has so many more root causes than the lack of the internet as to make their entire argument foolish at best, and misleading and self-serving at the least.  The lack of opportunity, the lack of jobs, gang or violence related oppression, systemic racism to name a few have far more to do with poverty than a mere hookup to the internet can ever hope to cure.  This sad attempt is laughable at best.

Upon reading the entire report, it doesn’t look like they’ve made any attempt to associate the relationship of income to Internet bandwidth availability with the cost of living indexes or for that matter, any other economic or sociological data that would make this study more accurate.  Could they be assuming that the lack of internet is at fault for crappy school systems?  So having internet (and not just any internet, it MUST be FAST internet, because we all know those technical documents have to all be streamed via video feed)  is causing the schools to perform poorly?  Why stop there?  Why not blame world hunger on the lack of internet because the crops just HAVE to grow better when the magic internet is turned on, right?

You would think that a report that draw this many conclusions just might have spent the time to put a comprehensive set of incontrovertible facts together to prove it’s case, right?  Wrong again:  Slapping subscriber rates together with Census data can’t possibly give you the whole picture, because what they have not taken into account dramatically alters the outcome.

There are many news outlets that have picked up this report and trumpeted little snippets of it here and there to grab a byline, but you can find the full report here:

Instead, they have cherry picked the type and nature of data they collect in order to ensure the outcome is exactly what promotes their agenda, namely forcing tax payers to foot the bill to pipe the internet into every single home in America.   I’m sure their organization won’t have anything to do with receiving all those government-funded grant dollar either, right?

Hawaii, for one, is used as an example of a successful spread of Internet across the poverty-stricken.  So why are they still poor?  They should have magically risen out of poverty merely because they have internet, right?  There couldn’t possibly be any other influences, like poorly performing school systems, rampant racial animosity among the native Hawaiians towards everyone else in general, the high teen pregnancy rates must be a fluke then too…   Of course, a high rate of government subsidized poor and an extremely high cost of living don’t skew the picture any at all.  Milk is over $8 a gallon.  I have lived in Hawaii and this study is so far off the mark as to be completely irrelevant.  

Other areas they cite as being virtually destitute have a cost of living less than a quarter of Hawaii’s yet have incomes rated only 50% lower.  By their own reasoning, this should make them glowing examples of how areas lacking in internet bandwidth result in comparatively richer people.

Aside from this poorly camouflaged campaign to fund their own agenda, trying to associate the lack of Internet with the lack of income is about as ignorant as equating the lack of stores selling Beluga Caviar with the rate of starvation in the area. 

People who struggle financially won’t buy into the Internet due to the monthly cost associated with it.  The internet is not a necessity, it’s a luxury similar to cable TV and cell phones. (which of course there exist government funded organizations similar to this one drooling at the mouth to promote their agendas as well) 

But this report even goes so far as to state that Laptops and wireless aren’t enough.  Say what?  Didn’t they just state internet was vital to the growth of the community?  Now it’s only certain types of internet and under certain types of conditions.  I use my smart phone just fine for searching out deals and keeping track of job interview opportunities; just because the screen is smaller doesn’t change the information you can find on it, but this report claims that high internet connected cell phone use among the poor doesn’t really count, and that using a laptop at a wireless hotspot isn’t truly meaningful either, so they throw that out too.

Where this report also fails is in basic integrity.  The attempt here to paint a false picture with cherry-picked data is laughable at best.  Why not say that anyone who does not own a car is by definition destitute and incapable of surviving in today’s world?  It’s just as irrelevant.  If you don’t have a car you walk, bus or work locally until you earn (I know; dirty word, right?) enough to buy a car.

Of course, I don’t know why anyone would expect any other view from someone as monetarily invested in the results as Mr. Dunbar’s (“former director of Connected, The Workshop’s Media and Broadband Project”).  He is directly invested in the outcome and is therefore extremely biased on the subject.  He stands to directly profit from the notion that all poor people should be immediately given free internet access, because that will make them better people and solve all of their problems for them…  Talk about self-enriching fantasies… I bet he’s so very eager to be helpful, as long as the government’s grant funding keeps rolling in.

 Oh!  And let’s not forget that this report is brought to you by the good people at the Center for Public Integrity, which brought you the report on “America’s most corrupt States” which lists states historically known for the worst corruption infestations in our country’s history as being the least corrupt of them all…  Quality stuff there.  Am I the only one who gets the impression that somebody is trying to make a buck off the misfortunes of others here?


Just my view from the cheep seats…

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