digital divide

Disparate by Design

Source: Getty Images/Ikon Images

Competition is supposed to be the driving factor of business development because in truth, why would anyone ever change a design if there was not another way to do it better or faster? In the end, a lot of the designs presented for consumption tend to look similar, even though most of the public will swear to originality. However, what is becoming glaringly apparent in the age of monopolies is that most of the bigger businesses want less competition. Instead of learning how to make opportunities and experiences more universal, more companies are incessantly working to obtain more money without providing a good or a service, and to exclude those without enough money to produce exorbitant profits. Nowhere is that more apparent than the persistence of the digital divide.

With the mania for single-family housing, many communities exist on the margins where internet infrastructure has not been incorporated, or so the public has been told. Nonetheless, residents still have to work and becoming educated still requires the use of technology, whether for children or adults. In the collective mind of a larger company, there would be little point in building for the small populations even when so many of them are savy with the internet. These locations would be the perfect opportunity for small community broadband companies–or even nonprofits–to provide internet service. After all, most billing services are working to go paperless and even banks exist completely online.

Well, what do people with power do when those within the working class work around them? Oh right, they come up with a law making it impossible for that to happen. In 26 states, the telecommunications companies decided that even though they were disinclined to acquiesce to internet needs, they would prevent smaller companies from taking up the mantle. They lobbied the state governments and got legislation passed that blatantly disregards the absolute need for internet in an age where most transactions occur online. Even though there will be people in marginalized communities in cities and in rural areas, it was more important for the larger companies not to change their models than for teenagers to have access to internet searches. It was more important to sustain high traffic and air pollution instead of making it possible to more effectively homeschool families in certain areas.

At some point, the larger corporations are going to have to ask themselves why they are so afraid of people without resources gaining access to some. Before, there was a sense of admiration for traditional companies, but obsolescence has begun to beat society over the head with its desperate wails, crying, “I’m important!” The rest of us look at this behavior with increasing disinterest as we demand more from our business community. If the tech industry has migrated so much to the online world that one will not be able to access bus passes or emails without internet access, no one should be without. It is time to gather the weary and demand that the government–which in theory, serves its constituents–make it possible for everyone to participate fully in the way the world works now.

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