Spitzer Speaks Out About The Digital Divide In The United States

Eliot Spitzer, the New York State Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate, addressed the Digital Divide issue in the United States during his keynote speech at the the Personal Democracy Forum in New York.

Eliot Spitzer outlined a proposal to provide affordable broadband to all citizens of New York. “In the 21st century, Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said.

Local high speed cable and dsl providers would love to gain more users, but the idea of a “low-cost” solution goes against the profit maximizing needs of these ISPs (internet service providers). There is lots of innovation happening in this space so I’m confident that some level of subsidized or free access will be provided to low income residents in our cities.

However, an analyst throws a wrench into the whole debate by arguing that the lack of broadband penetration among low income residents is due to the lack of computers:

That’s a much bigger reason for the lack of broadband penetration in low-income households than service accessibility, argues Bruce Liechtman, principal analyst with Liechtman Research Group and a former chair of the editorial board for the Cable & Telecommunications Marketing Assn. journal. “Broadband adoption really correlates directly with household income.” If Spitzer wants to solve the digital divide, Leichtman says, “he should be giving everybody a computer.”

It’s a great argument and one that is debatable. If we use South Korea as a test case, we notice that although broadband penetration is high, most people don’t own computers. In fact, most people go to internet cafes to check their email, browse the web, and play online games. Perhaps subsidizing a free internet cafe for the residents of South Bronx could be a worthy test that offers us some answers to the questions this article raises.

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