NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What "Digital Divide?"

August 30, 2000

Is there a widening gap between the technological "haves" and "have-nots?" Are low-income families being left out of the era of computers and the Internet? Some politicians claim they are, and propose an array of expensive programs to bring poor people into the fold.

But experts say there is wide access to the new technological age if people only review and take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

  • Prices of new computers have been falling rapidly, even as their processing power has been growing exponentially -- to the point that companies have begun giving away their PC systems to consumers with little or no upfront charge, in return for monthly service contracts.
  • A number of major companies have embarked on PC-giveaway programs for their employees as a recruitment incentive, or an additional worker benefit.
  • As for access to the Internet, Americans already enjoy flat-rate access and very inexpensive pricing -- not to mention access free of charge by advertiser-supported Web sites.
  • Almost every American home is "wired" and many companies are rapidly upgrading their systems and developing and deploying new networks to satisfy demand for high-speed Internet access.

It took 70 years before telephones were installed in 50 percent of American homes. By contrast, it is estimated that over half of American households will have Internet access by 2001 -- even though the Internet has existed as a commercial service for less than 10 years.

Source: Adam D. Thierer (Heritage Foundation), "Is the 'Digital Divide' a Virtual Reality?" Consumers' Research, July 2000.


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