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The Internet Google Networking The Almighty Buck

Is Google Making the Digital Divide Worse? 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the on-one-hand-yes-but-on-the-other-hand-give-me-gigabit dept.
theodp writes "As Google Fiber forges ahead into new metro areas, Michael Brick reports on worries the fiber project will create a permanent underclass. Building the next generation of information economy infrastructure around current demand, experts say, will deny poor people the physical wiring needed to gain access while the privileged digerati advance at hyperspeed. 'The fiber service deployment means multiplicity of the digital divide, multidimensionality of the digital divide,' says Eun-A Park of the Univ. of New Haven. 'You can see it in Google's trial in Kansas City.' Speed matters, explains Google, 'because a world with universal access and 100 times faster internet could mean 100 times the learning.' Without universal access, as is the case in KC due to pricing that's out of the reach of many of the city's poor, one presumes the outcome could be 100x the learning divide. Another case of the unintended consequences of good intentions?"
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Is Google Making the Digital Divide Worse?

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  • by RGreen (15823) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:25PM (#46305855)

    Wow, if only there were some kind of organized system of, say, i don't know, governance for ensuring that under-represented members of our communities get equal access to economic resources? Like a set of written guidelines or maybe rules that all members of a community need to abide by...

  • Doubtful. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fishchip (1203964) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:25PM (#46305859)
    "...'because a world with universal access and 100 times faster internet could mean 100 times the learning."

    Oh, you funny crazy optimistic Google guys. You confused 'learning' with 'pornography and memes'.

    Besides that, what about people in rural areas? What about people who still rely on dialup? They're already in existence but because some rich people in certain cities will have stupid fast Internet, there's suddenly an Internet class divide?
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:25PM (#46305861) Homepage

    Yes. It's a fascinating idea really. Seems it could really speed things up. Instead of taking 20 hours to finish that course from The Learning Company, I could finish it in only 15 minutes.

  • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:28PM (#46305891)

    The only people harmed by Google's high speed access are the CEOs of companies that have sucked down billions in government money for providing high speed internet access while doing nothing to actually provide it.

  • by Niterios (2700835) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:30PM (#46305917)
    So, a faster speed is bad because some won't have access to it? How is not implementing a faster speed option going to help them? This is the exact same problem with, for example, real estate: Since some people can pay for better houses, should we prohibit such houses because it gives them an unfair advantage? It seems that the author does not realize that the problem is of much greater dimensions than: "Google is discriminating people by income." Capitalism is discriminating people by income, and if that is his complaint, then his article sucks at conveying it.
  • Er... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:31PM (#46305929)

    Yes, the company offering free service if you pay a one-time fee for the hookup (a fairly reasonable one, at that) is totally making the digital divide worse. Clearly.

    The pricing of their gigabit offering is fantastic. And while that price is undoubtedly out of the reach of poor people, so is almost everything. If it's really that important to have gigabit internet for the nation's poor, then that's something the government (as well as charitable organizations) needs to subsidize, just like with anything else that is deemed necessary (but too expensive for the poverty-stricken to afford). In no way can Google be reasonably found to be at fault here.

  • by dclozier (1002772) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:35PM (#46305977)
    My thoughts exactly - the digital divide wouldn't be any less worse without Google. If anything Google is slowly forcing the hands of the large telcos to bolster their services or have their lunches eaten.
  • Highway to hell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:35PM (#46305981)

    That's what I call Google fiber: this goddamned company is trying to control anything, from the OS (Android) to carrier to search engine to the entire freaking internet.

    Don't you see? It's not the digital divide we should fear, it's the Google monopoly. Once they control everything, they'll dictate what you can do and not do on their internet.

    Super-fast internet connectivity attracts internet users like honey the proverbial fly. That's why Google offers it. Once we're stuck in the honey though, we'll be in real trouble...

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:37PM (#46306001) Homepage Journal

    Behind the snark lurks a valid point. If it takes me 20hrs to download the materials, but it takes you 15mins, then yes, you could finish faster and move on to something else.

    But if it takes > 20 hours to actually read and understand the material, then your download speed is trivial and not an issue, I believe was his point.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:38PM (#46306007)

    ...Another case of the unintended consequences of good intentions?...

    It is more a case of leaping blindly into unsubstantiated conclusions based upon the cherry-picking of information that suits your intent.

  • Re:Er... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:38PM (#46306013) Homepage

    Yes, the company offering free service if you pay a one-time fee for the hookup (a fairly reasonable one, at that) is totally making the digital divide worse. Clearly.

    And the free service is 5mbps, more than fast enough for Khan Academy and Coursera.

    It's as if Google realized in advance that the lunatics would scream "digital divide" because they were charging -- at a dirt cheap price -- for a superlative Internet service, so they tried to head that criticism off at the pass by offering a lower-speed free service.

    But still the lunatics scream "digital divide". And Slashdot editors gave them a platform.

  • by ityllux (853334) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:40PM (#46306031)
    This seems as good a time as any to dust off Betteridge's law of headlines: "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."
  • by JoeDaddyZZZ (3543989) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:43PM (#46306069)
    Cities that want to help business should embrace fiber and use their dollars to help build it out, instead trying to attract business via cheap loans or tax relief. Spend the tax dollars to improve everyone's life.
  • by mlw4428 (1029576) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:44PM (#46306083)
    Military, police, roads, etc
  • First, Do Evil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:45PM (#46306097) Homepage Journal

    As we all know, Google's charter starts with the phrase "First, Do Evil".

    Look, there's literally a 100 GB/second pipe in the building I'm in, and two more just 2 blocks away, and 40 GB/second pipes all over the UW Seattle campus and the UW Tacoma campus.

    Almost all top tier US and Canadian research universities have this, and we could easily build this out within a few miles if we actually wanted to fund that as a National Priority, just like we went to the Moon when we wanted to.

    There are choices.

    We just aren't prepared to fund them as a nation.

  • Re:Doubtful. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:49PM (#46306121) Homepage Journal

    [Google] offer[s] a better service for what seems quite a bit less money.

    This.

    I don't see how charging a one-time fee of $300 for the initial hookup is "putting broadband out of the reach of the poor" when the competing companies charge upwards of $60 - $100 per month for service. If anything, it's doing the exact opposite.

    Is Michael Brick employed by ComCast or something?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:53PM (#46306155)

    Especially since I suspect more learning happens when you're at LOWER bandwidth, where you can access text reasonably quickly enough, but as soon as you try to stream videos, or even perhaps load pictures of cats, it chokes out.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:57PM (#46306179) Homepage

    You can only judge something by the actual results. It doesn't matter what kind of excuses you want to make up. Stuff has to make it in the real world rather than some fantasy that only exists in your own head. If all attempts lead to disaster because there is some aspect of human nature you choose to ignore, then perhaps you should acknowledge it's a bad idea.

  • by gnick (1211984) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:59PM (#46306203) Homepage

    That's true, but I'd say that the economic divide sending some people to Stanford and others who started with equal skill to Chico State is a much larger learning division than 100 Mbps vs 56 kbps. To think that somebody getting 100 Mbps downloads is learning 100x faster than somebody getting 1Mbps is ridiculous. The guys who developed the atomic bomb communicated using their voices, shoes, and chalk boards.

  • by ThatAblaze (1723456) on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:20PM (#46306405)

    The idea here is that when a significant portion of the internet population has 100mb/s connections then web site owners will start building services that cater to those people and require that quick of a connection. This will leave the people that are wayyy on the other side of the curve that much further behind. There is not analogous effect in real estate, i.e. if 10% more of the population has larger houses then it doesn't eventually make your small house less functional.

    Anyway, I disagree with your argument but not with your point. I think a better analogy would have been car ownership. It's very hard to get around and keep a job (outside of the inner city) without a car. The infrastructure of our society has become so dependent on cars that only the very poor don't have one. However, if anyone seriously tried to argue that making better cars was promoting the class divide they would be laughed at. It misses the point.

  • Re:Highway to hell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:21PM (#46306421)

    until Google is the only provider left

    Right now, Google Fiber is available in 3 cities and possibly expanding to 9 more. How do you go from that to "Google will be the only one left"? Even if they do take out the local Big ISP (Read: make it impossible for Comcast to compete because Comcast insists on giving you slower speeds for more per month), how is this any different than the local Big ISP being the only game in town? Right now, my only option for broadband Internet access is Time Warner Cable (possibly soon to be Comcast). TWC really doesn't need to do anything to win over my business because they know it's either pay them what they demand for what they offer me or go back to dial-up. If Google Fiber came to my town, they would provide much needed competition and would spur TWC to improve their offerings.

    It's already happened: want to upload Youtube videos? You have to subscribe to Google+ and its invasive TOS.

    So upload your videos somewhere else. If you don't like YouTube (or more specifically the TOS you need to agree to), don't use it. Are you suggesting that getting Google Fiber will require you to use YouTube instead of Vimeo, Dailymotion, or some other video service?

    The telcos you complain about behave this way precisely because they're monopolies.

    And the solution to breaking up the teleco monopolies is to block Google Fiber? Google has repeatedly said that they don't plan on taking Google Fiber nationwide as a major ISP. Obviously, they can change their mind on this at any time, but they aren't planning major rollouts. Right now, all Google Fiber is doing is causing the major ISPs to sweat a bit in a few select markets.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:22PM (#46306425)

    Some people having slow connections instead of fast connections is clearly superior to everybody having slow connections.

    The fault in causing the digital divide lies not with Google for being fast, but rather with every other ISP for being slow!

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:59PM (#46306753) Homepage Journal

    Cross reference the itemized costs of a routine procedure with hospital administration pay scales. It'll piss you off, guaranteed.

    Well, unless you're a hospital administrator, I guess.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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