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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 jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:22PM (#46305837)

    I'd like to hear more about this.

    • 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.

    • People also use the internet for learning.
      • 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.

      • ...about porn.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 yorgasor (109984)

      Cut the poor guy some slack. He clearly has been living with a slow internet connection and hasn't quite figured out that bandwidth and learning don't scale linearly together.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      I'd like to hear more about this.

      Yeah, I remember getting twice as smart when I upgraded from a 14.4k to a 28.8k modem. Don't you?

    • by ttucker (2884057)
      Tell me more about how when something that you can pay money for gives you an advantage, it is intrinsically unfair that other people can not afford it?
    • Of course, if your math skill level is around the 8th grade (like most politicians?) x = Ay .....

  • 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...

    • by jmichaelg (148257)

      ...complete with regulators that would end up working for the companies they regulate.

      And of course, said regulators would raise the price of entry so that the incumbents would have a natural advantage.

      What a novel idea!

    • Fun fact: Kansas City public schools lost their accreditation in 2012 and haven't regained it. [wikipedia.org] The entire school district. The public schools are too shitty to meet even Missouri's standards. It's not the first time either. I'm not sure what they've done to fix the schools, but since the upper and middle classes in KCMO send their kids to private schools, I can't imagine it was anything like increasing taxes. And given teacher union power, I can't imagine it was anything like firing bad teachers. But
    • by sabri (584428)

      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...

      So you want everyone to be equal? That has been tried, it was called the Soviet Union.

      In a free market, some people have more than others. If you don't want that, you'll end up having a Socialist State. And that means that the government steals^W taxes everything you earn above a certain amount, for example like in France [cnn.com].

      Most of the people who are considered "poor" (where poor is relative, if you still have a roof, food and clothing) have had the same opportunities as those who are considered working c

    • That system is also responsible for why broadband is so slow to deploy in the US. Google Fiber only exists because they've been able to escape the rules that most broadband providers are shackled by.

      Am I saying that by unshackling them things will suddenly improve? No, not exactly. But when you have a billion ordinances to live by in addition to corrupt small-time politicians telling you where you can and can't build, you just say to hell with it and not build at all. Local city ordinances are THE number on

  • 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 Panspechi (948400)
      It,s a crappy exaggeration... let,s not innovate too much because someone might be left behind! I'm siding with the Google deployment on this one; they offer a better service for what seems quite a bit less money. This has more chance to bring the internet to poorer people than ever before (although only in towns for now, but it is only beginning).
      • 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 Kjella (173770)

      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?

      Actually there is and getting wider, I've been watching the national telecom statistics here in Norway and the bottom 20% are rather stuck, also known as the people who only have broadband because the government forced the telco to give them a phone line, but who'll never see an upgrade over their crappy ADSL ever without subsidies. Same with mobile data, not enough customers to justify it. Meanwhile the people in central areas are constantly seeing new forms of fiber, cable, xDSL, super-3G, 4G etc. to give

    • Besides that, what about people in rural areas? What about people who still rely on dialup?

      Don't worry, we've already been giving money to telecoms to help rural people get internet. Really.

  • 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.

    • Amen! (in lieu of mod points)
    • 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.
    • Comcast is really doing everything it can to get teh TWC acquisition approved. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02... [nytimes.com]

      WASHINGTON — Only a few hours had passed after the $45 billion merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable was announced last week when an early voice emerged endorsing the giant deal.

      “Win-win situation for American businesses,” said the statement from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

      It was the start of what Comcast executives acknowledge will be a carefully orchestrated campaign, as the company will seek hundreds of such expressions of support for the deal — from members of Congress, state officials and leaders of nonprofit and minority-led groups — as it tries to nudge federal authorities to approve the merger.

      But what the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce did not mention in its statement praising the transaction was that it had collected at least $320,000 over the last five years from Comcast’s charitable foundation, which is run in part by David L. Cohen, the Comcast executive who oversees the corporation’s government affairs operations....

    • by rwa2 (4391) * on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:02PM (#46306237) Homepage Journal

      Amen to that. If you look at the Google Fiber Cities plan at https://fiber.google.com/newci... [google.com] , you can more or less see that Google Fiber is trying to avoid population centers where the internet is already well developed (DC-NYC-BOS corridor, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Houston) and primarily concentrating in "up-n-coming" low-cost southern tech centers, which already typically get lower marks for education.

      So if anything, Google Fiber appears to be trying to bring the poors up rather than help the richers widen the gap.

  • 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.
    • 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.

      • by Niterios (2700835)
        You are right, I missed that point and your analogy is better. Nevertheless, I also think that it is unlikely that the educational content of the internet will devolve into a bandwidth hungry activity (anyone have insights on this?), which is the cited example. After all, the elite of the United States is still educated in classrooms, and the most data that can come out of that is a video stream. See, for example, oyc.yale.edu, which provides video of lectures (and even transcripts), problem sets, tests an
    • Since some people can pay for better houses, should we prohibit such houses because it gives them an unfair advantage?

      Well, that's the general "inequality" idea ... I agree that it makes no sense. But everyone from the president on down seems to believe 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.

    • 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.

      • Before you had to choose between crappy cable or crappy dsl and watched as other nations like South Korea were on the lucky side of the digital divide.

        Now we have three tiers: Crappy American connection, Awesome South Korean connection, and Fantasy Google connection.

        Thanks Google for giving people unrealistic dreams. ... As soon as they announce where they are connecting in Austin, I'm moving.

    • The article was written like a really subtle Onion article. It talks about how google went to surprising lengths to identify the problem and fix it, then has some asshole criticizing google for sending wifi balloons to Africa rather than giving it away for free in kansas city.
    • Not only that, but they are willing to let you pay that install fee in monthly installments, over the course of a year, no financing fees involved.

      That's $300 up front, or $25/month for one year, after which you have guaranteed 6 more years of free service. If you want to break it down, that's around $3.57 a month of the course of this agreement. AND there were NPO's offering to help people offset even that much.

  • by mattack2 (1165421) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:32PM (#46305943)

    From the link they provided, you can get FREE basic internet, and IIRC, they were even waiving the $300 setup fee that the page mentions.

  • It's 2100, and we only have a few years to go before the last sub-saharan gets a modem and we can turn on the internet!

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:34PM (#46305971) Journal

    ...Ford is making the transportation gap worse by producing vehicles that the poor can't afford, and I am making the car analogy gap worse by making car analogies people who don't read Slashdot can't see.

    • by Metrol (147060)

      Have you fully considered the multidimensionality of the vehicular divide of which you speak? Oh my gosh, and the multiplicity of the analogy gap!

  • 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...

  • 'because a world with universal access and 100 times faster internet could mean 100 times the learning.'

    Yeah, uh, no.

    There are so many wrong assumptions there I don't even know where to start.

    BTW, I'm still waiting for TV to revolutionize learning like was promised ...

    • by suutar (1860506)
      TV has revolutionized learning. It just wasn't a particularly beneficial revolution.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      What, you don't have your Google neural restructuring implant installed yet? It took me *weeks* to learn everything in the Library of congress over my crappy 2mbps 'net connection, with a gigabit link I could have learned it in mere minutes!

      I love my NRI. NRIs are wonderful. You should get an NRI.

      Ahem. Sorry, I think I dozed off I dozed off for a moment. What were you saying?

  • Comcast or Verizon? (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:35PM (#46305987) Homepage Journal

    Who is paying this shill?

    • Beware of Google, they may help people's lives, so only people in Comcast or Verizon zones are the underclass. There is definitely a shill here at play.

      In all seriousness, I can't wait til Google rolls out more fiber! I want 1-10 gb/s speeds to challenge the jerks trying to get us to pay more and more for less and less.
      • My first thought when I saw this article was: "If Google Fiber is making the digital divide worse, then I hope they make it worse in my town next." I'm not holding my breath though. (Only have TWC - soon to be Comcast - here.)

  • by alen (225700) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:37PM (#46306003)

    the only reason i have 20/2 is for netflix and youtube. the latter being the most educational, but the educational videos can be played on slower speeds
    everything else would work with under 10mbps internet
    wikipedia doesn't need 1gbps and that's the most educational site there is

    there is only one reason for fast internet and that's to make you spend more money buying on impulse. 1gpbs you can buy that movie NOW instead of waiting for the blu ray. or get that PS4 game NOW instead of driving to gamestop or best buy or waiting on amazon

  • 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.

  • 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."
    • What happens if the headline reads: "Does Betteridge's Law of Headlines apply to this headline?"

      (If you answer "No", then it does apply so the answer should be "Yes", but if you answer "Yes" then it doesn't apply and you should answer "No".)

    • 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."

      I don't think it needs to be dusted off. It gets used so much, basically in every story with a question, that it's probably polished and shining by now.

  • by locopuyo (1433631) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:40PM (#46306039) Homepage
    Assuming Google fiber will force the competition to lower prices or increase their own bandwidth this is a simplified example of what is happening.

    Would you rather have:
    Google Fiber allowed: 50% of people have 1000 Mbit internet and 50% of people have 10 Mbit internet
    or
    Google Fiber is not allowed: 50% of people have 20 Mbit internet and 50% of people have 5 Mbit internet

    Forcing equality often just means lowering the standards of living for everyone. Even for people at the bottom.
    • by kqs (1038910)

      Assuming Google fiber will force the competition to lower prices or increase their own bandwidth this is a simplified example of what is happening.

      Nah. Increasing bandwidth is expensive; paying shills to write anti-Google articles is much cheaper.

      With their $300-installation-then-free plan Google is doing far more to bridge the digital divide than any of their competitors.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      That's how we roll in the US. Poor little Johnny is having trouble adding? We can't hold him back so now no one learns to add until he catches up!
  • This is complete bullshit. In other markets we're paying the same prices for far slower speeds and those who can't afford the Free that Google is charging for 5/1MBit aren't getting Internet here either.

    Internet access needs to be more widely available. Internet access needs to be cheaper. What the fuck does that have to do with Google Fiber specifically?

  • 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 suutar (1860506)
      Cities don't have the budget to fight the cable and phone companies in the state legislature and the courts to get/keep permission to lay fiber.
  • Don't assume that access to the internet is making anybody smarter. I think that's the real question. If anything, access to the internet is making people less intelligent, and I think there is more evidence to support that claim. The child who walks to the library and picks up a book and reads is going to end up smarter than the kids who hits up wikipedia, youtube, and various blogs to get his information.
  • 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.

    • What about places like where my family farms are located? The costs to lay fibre down all those roads would be prohibitive since you maybe would serve .5 homes per mile. Maybe even less. Hell my grandmother didn't have a private line until 1991. I remember going down there in the 1980's and she had a party line still.

  • I bet that the difference between having 50 KB/s connection and having no Internet is greater than between having 50 KB/s and 50 MB/s.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      devices to access the internet can be made in bulk for less than $100

      in a couple years that price will probably be below $25. most poor people in USA have TVs after all...

    • by Paco103 (758133)

      I don't know about that. Slow Internet invokes rage, hatred, and violent thoughts that most people without internet will never face.

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:52PM (#46306149)

    You can't hold back progress just because not everyone has gotten aboard the train. That train is leaving just as soon as it can make a buck.

    Po'boy can't get no youtube lickitysplit on an ol' busted DSL line, but he can still browse wikipedia. And back when he couldn't get wikipedia he could still hit up a library. And I imagine people will complain that the poor unwashed masses with their slow and broken fiber lines won't be able to access the hivemind as quickly as and as comfortably as his rich relatives.

    You're bitching that the digital divide is increasing because someone is plowing ahead. The poor will always be playing catchup. It's part of what makes them poor. And sure, that sucks. But would you blame the Wright brothers for keep the poor downtrodden and earthbound while making a device that only the rich could afford? No. So please, kindly, GTFO of the way of progress. CHOO CHOO!

    • by ttucker (2884057)

      Po'boy can't get no youtube lickitysplit on an ol' busted DSL line

      This sounds like my parents house.

  • I'm pretty sure this is how it all starts.
  • by bobstreo (1320787) on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:10PM (#46306313)

    http://www.wired.com/wiredente... [wired.com]

    And Google Fiber is already having positive effects on their cable competition:

    http://consumerist.com/2013/01... [consumerist.com]

    http://www.pcworld.com/article... [pcworld.com]

  • Google offers a free fiber internet connection with monthly cost guaranteed for 7 years. There is a 300 dollar install fee to cover the cost of the modem, but thats it. Seems pretty damn reasonable.

  • by clovis (4684)

    First sentence of the article:
    "In the future envisioned by Google, Internet access will be a basic human right"

    a right?
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

  • Or help the digital divide for that matter.

    The real divide is between populated areas and rural areas and giving people in cities another better option isn't going to change that one way or the other.

  • Perhaps the problem is that poor people couldn't order it until they can spring for a new computer !!!

    That pricing page locked up XP/IE8. Not even the usual reload and/or error, just stuck. Getting them to spring for a new computer AND new internet service might be too much. Exactly what new groundbreaking tech is required to display a price list?

    Guess I'll have to find my login here so I can use chrome, tried as AC and um...no.

  • envy (Score:4, Funny)

    by clovis (4684) on Friday February 21, 2014 @06:37PM (#46307087)

    An old joke about neighbor envy ...
    An angel in disguise visit a peasant's hut and is brought inside. The peasant shares what little food he has, and lets him sleep under his only blanket.
    The next morning the angel reveals himself and tells the peasant he will be rewarded, but the catch is, whatever the peasant asks for, his neighbor will get double.
    The peasant, agonized, thinks on it all day. Finally he tells the angel "I ask that you put out one of my eyes".

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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