America’s technology gap continues to widen

As Internet and smartphone usage continues to expand, a population of Americans still refuses new technologies. The Internet is a vital educational and career tool, and thus the technological gap prevents Internet non-users from succeeding in multiple spheres of society.

Up to 10 million U.S. households without Internet say that they would seek Internet if offered a government subsidy, as indicated by Federal Communications Commission estimates. This population overlaps with the 19% of Internet non-users that cite high prices as the greatest barrier to Internet usage, according to Pew Research Center.

However, 34% of the 51 million people lacking Internet say that the Internet isn’t relevant to their lives, and the 32% that believe the Internet is too difficult to use. Roughly two-thirds of households, therefore, won’t be convinced to get broadband at any price.

Administrators are trying to close the technology gap through a series of initiatives. The FCC stated in August that it would give $9 billion to Internet providers like AT&T, Frontier and Windstream in the next six years to establish broadband infrastructure in rural regions. Another FCC program, named Lifeline, intends to subsidize high-speed Internet for low-income Americans in the coming years, and the White House has established a $1 billion annual budget devoted to connecting schools and libraries to the Web.

However, initiatives can only help those who are willing to use the Internet if given more resources. It’s a much more difficult and intangible task to convince low-income Americans that they should seek out community centers and libraries to research things or apply for federal benefits online. It requires a niche initiative to encourage seniors to use the Internet to keep in touch with family members and friends.

As technology progresses, technology gaps will widen, and inequalities in other sectors will follow. It will take a targeted approach by Washington, state governments, and communities to prevent greater damage in the future.

Article via The Washington Post, 22 October 2015

Photo: Old Barn in Vermont via Geoffrey Coelho [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Google brings Internet to India

Google plans to equip 400 train station across India with high-speed Internet, as announced by the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai last Sunday. This announcement occurred at the same time that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Bringing high-speed WiFi to rural areas of India by 2019 is one of Modi’s goals as part of his Digital India Initiative.

Google is collaborating with Indian Railways and RailTel, an Internet service provider along railway lines. By the end of next year, 100 railway stations will have Internet. This will grant access for the 10 million people who use the stations every day.

India’s huge market will benefit Google greatly, as the company profits off advertising. However, India’s limited infrastructure will still prove an obstacle. Both Google and its competitor Facebook have experimented with drones and balloons to offer service to rural areas. Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, commented on the difficulties of building in developing areas: “Power can be a problem. Running new wires is difficult — and keeping those wires from being stolen even more so.”

Article via TechNewsWorld, 29 September 2015

Photo: Train at Mahim Junction, Mumbai via Adam Cohn [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Facebook provides Syrian refugees Internet access

Facebook and the United Nations are working together to provide Internet access to Syrian refugees as they seek resettlement. Web access in refugee camps will help those living there communicate with family and utilize support from aid communities, according to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook is also constructing satellites and aircraft that will beam Internet connections to remote villages and towns, similar to Google’s project that accomplishes the same goal with high-altitude balloons. Critics to the program say that both companies are providing Internet access for selfish purposes, as both Facebook and Google profit from expanding their user base.

Facebook’s non-profit organization Internet.org is also under attack. Internet.org seeks to provide Internet access to developing countries, and was launched in India on Friday. Several Internet companies withdrew from the program because they saw the organization as a threat to Net neutrality, which guarantees that all websites are equally accessible.

Zuckerberg will be holding a town hall-style discussion with India’s prime minister this Sunday in defense of the non-profit. He says that by expanding Internet access, companies like Facebook and Google can create 140 million new jobs.

Article via CNETSeptember 26, 2015

Photo: Relief Effort for Syrian Refugees via IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Responding to online complaints lands a lawyer an 18 month suspension

 James C. Underhill Jr., an attorney in Colorado, has found himself in hot water after a fee dispute with clients went wrong.
A married couple that retained the lawyer’s services claimed that the fee collection that Mr. Underhill enforced was not what they had all verbally agreed to. When Mr. Underhill insisted on this new structure of payment, the couple left the lawyer and posted negative reviews for him on a review site.

Instead of taking it in stride, or countering the negative reviews with positive ones, Mr. Underhill struck back. As their lawyer, Mr. Underhill was privy to private conversations and information over the course of representing the couple. He used this information to publicly shame the couple in postings on the internet. He then sued the couple for defamation. When he lost his first suit, he waged a second one claiming that the couple had made other defamatory complaints about him on the internet.

This case(the full decision is posted at the end of the article here) has brought up how the law is affected by technology in a variety of ways. If a client had made a complaint 30 years ago, Mr. Underhill would have been able to expose attorney client information at the state bar. This has been allowed because attorneys must be able to protect their reputation. 30 years ago, this couple’s only way to lodge a complaint would have been by going to the state bar. Now, the result for Mr. Underhill is an 18 month suspension.

In these times, the internet offers a much quicker and more effective way of getting a complaint noticed. The law, unfortunately, has just not caught up with technology yet. In the meantime, lawyers will have to walk a fine line. They must recognize that although they will be judged in a more traditional setting, they have to operate in a world optimized for communication that the law is not able to regulate with the same veracity.

Article via AboveTheLaw, 8 September 2015

Photo: Night Work via Thomas Heylan[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]