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computer-150x150New census data shows there is a digital divide in our community. More than 85,000 people who live in Monroe County do not have a computer or an Internet connection at home. City residents are more likely not to have access to high-speed broadband.

Let’s take a look at the 2013 American Community Survey.

How many households have a computer?

The survey shows 83 percent of Monroe County households have a computer, which can include smartphones. That’s on par with the national and state averages. In the City of Rochester, only 74 percent of households has a computer.

How many households have broadband Internet?

Here again, Monroe County follows state and national averages, with three of four households having a high-speed Internet connection. In the City of Rochester, only three of five households has broadband.

Do children have broadband Internet at home?

In Monroe County, 81 percent of children under 18 have high-speed Internet at home. This is on par with state and national averages. In the City of Rochester, 62 percent of children have broadband Internet at home.

Do senior citizens have broadband Internet at home?

Three of five people 65 years and older in Monroe County have high-speed Internet at home, again comparable to state and national averages. In the City of Rochester, only two of five seniors has broadband Internet at home.

How many people only have access to the Internet on their smartphones?

In the United States, 7 percent of people only have a mobile broadband subscription at home. In New York State, 4 percent of people fall into this category. In Monroe County, 5 percent of people only have smartphone Internet at home. That’s more than 30,000 people. In the City of Rochester, the rate of mobile-only broadband jumps to 13 percent.

What types of broadband Internet are in households?

In Monroe County, cable rules, with 70 percent of households getting their Internet through cable. Fourteen percent of households have a DSL subscription. 1.5 percent have satellite Internet and .7 percent have fiber optic.

Must be Nice

Four percent of Monroe County households access the Internet without a subscription. This includes people who get Internet for free from universities…or their neighbors’ Wi-Fi?

What does this mean?

High-speed Internet is a vital way to apply for jobs, communicate with current and future employers, take classes, stay informed about our community, and learn about the world.

An awful lot of people cannot use the Internet at home in our community. This makes the continued availability of terminals at our libraries so important. This is especially important for households with children, who increasingly need broadband to complete assignments. The Internet also offers so many opportunities to explore the world that children in broadband-less homes will not be able to access as easily. It’s also concerning that so many people are only relying on smartphones, which are more limited in capabilities, for Internet access.

The survey doesn’t ask why people don’t have broadband at home. It’s possible they don’t value high-speed Internet, but I’m guessing it’s more likely they can’t afford it.

 

Join Me on October 26

 

The Women’s Foundation of the Genesee Valley helps poor women and children succeed. The group gives grants to programs proven to help them get on their feet – and stay on their feet. Please consider walking with me on October 26 and/or making a small donation!

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Downstate superintendents call on the state to scrap the horribly flawed teacher evaluation system.

– A former NFL ball boy describes a very violent sport, but concludes the only change needed is more emotional support for players.

– A couple spent $7,000 on a run-down 19th Ward house and completed a remarkable transformation.

– On this National Coming Out Day, I’m so proud of my cousin for being open and passionate about her transgender child.

– This article makes kid-carpooling sound like absolute hell.

The brunch backlash.

Remembering Jimmy the Chimp.

Links of the Day:

– I’ve long been frustrated by the fact I pay two separate Internet bills – one for home and one for mobile. They add up to about $100 a month. I’d love to pay one bill for half the price for all of my broadband needs. There’s one reason I can’t do that: Data caps.

All-you-can-eat mobile data is going the way of the dodo bird. You can easily use an entire month’s allotment by downloading one movie. What’s the point of having fancy mobile devices with fast Internet if you can’t use them anywhere but home?

The new iPad with its 4G speeds has exposed the issue, reports the Wall Street Journal:

“With LTE, the quality and the streaming is fantastic,” Mr. (Brandon) Wells said. “But man, you’re really limited in terms of the amount of content you can consume.”

Mr. Wells’s father, Steve Wells, also hit his data limit on Saturday. While he was at the basketball game with his son, his wife was using his iPad as a video baby monitor for his granddaughter while she napped in another room. By the time the two were back from the game, the app had burned through his two gigabyte plan.

“All the advantages of the iPad device are completely neutralized by the two gigabyte data limit,” said Steve Wells, 56.

Something’s got to give. High speed, low-cost public Wi-Fi networks are one way to solve this issue. Another is for carriers to offer more reasonable pricing structures, but something tells me not to hold my breath.

– State Senator Jim Alesi may not get the backing of the local Republican Party, which insists gay marriage has nothing to do with it. Democrats don’t want him either.

– Read the City of Rochester’s handout on budget choices. It’s quite detailed and includes the suggestion to close the soccer stadium.

– A Syracuse girl was put on the wrong school bus and had to walk home on her own. “What if she crossed the street and got hit by a car?” The only travesty here is that the Post-Standard continues to think this nonsense is news.

So much for Governor Andrew Cuomo and transparency.

My blog post questioning Frontier’s future caused a bit of a stir at the company. Frontier is among the telcos with copper lines, which are not as fast as cable and fiber optic networks.

A Frontier spokesperson emailed:

Frontier continually upgrades it’s networks with over $75 million invested annually in Frontier’s Northeast Region alone. By integrating fiber and copper solutions with VDSL (very high bit rate DSL) and high capacity network solutions, customers can take advantage of a wide range of broadband products and services to meet their needs. Standalone high speed, high speed lite and max and wireless services, all at competitive speeds, are very popular. For families with multiple broadband users, Frontier has introduced a new service called Second Connect which doubles capacity for the home. Combining broadband products with low cost video options and highly reliable voice service provides added value for customers.

There are technologies that can increase the speed of copper lines. Developing higher-speed networks is a huge priority for companies with legacy copper networks. They face increasing competition from cable and wireless providers in the broadband arena.

News of copper’s death may be greatly exaggerated. Given the rapid pace of change and customer’s increasingly demands, it will be interesting to see how Frontier keeps up. Maximizing copper’s performance is vital, but it might also be just buying time.

Links of the Day:

– Can Frontier Communications compete? An interesting blog post questions how Frontier can survive without offering higher speeds and new products.

Frontier Communications, having gobbled up a number of unwanted Verizon markets and debt back in 2009, continues to tread a precarious path where they’re supposed to be a broadband company, but can’t offer a compelling next-generation product that seriously competes with cable (or in some cases, 4G wireless).

We tend to focus on how Frontier can survive in the cell phone age, but broadband is also important. I asked Frontier in the fall of 2010 about its future plans. They did not include an upgrade to higher-speed networks. The company doesn’t believe most people need super-fast Internet.

Although cable broadband can offer higher speeds, (Ann) Burr said, “We’re constantly upgrading our local networks to make sure they can get higher and higher speeds.” Fiber lines are installed in newer developments, and neighborhoods that report problems with DSL lines get attention from technicians.

Burr said there are no plans to offer the super-high speed fiber network in Rochester, known as FiOS. She said most customers do not need speeds that fast, and Frontier’s broadband service is available in 95 percent of the market.

Frontier has 1,300 workers in Rochester.

– TV is going online. I’m convinced we’re moving to a day when everything we watch on TV will come from the web. Comcast announced it’s offering a streaming service to compete with Netflix.

– “Live from the Hollywood and Highland Theater.” A Los Angeles television station reports that’s what the former Kodak Theatre owner’s landlords want the place called during the Oscars.

– Some of the LeRoy girls are all better, because they accepted the diagnosis of conversion disorder.

– Chinese women are occupying men’s bathrooms in a fight for “potty parity.” I stand in complete solidarity.

Your clothes could be injuring you.

The Wall Street Journal has a delightful column about breaking up with cable. Cutting the cord. Going Internet-only. Excerpt:

I’ve changed over the years. I’m hardly at home. And when I am, it’s not live television I’m watching. It’s stuff that’s been queued up on my DVR for weeks. But mostly, when I’m on my couch with a remote in my hand, I’ve been…streaming.

I’m quitting you, cable.

This will go easier if we can just admit it: We’re not right for each other anymore.

I took a big step toward cutting the cord by subscribing to only basic cable plus HBO. (I’m thrilled HBO GO is arriving for Time Warner customers – one less reason to DVR.)

I’m starting to wonder, however, if the concept of cord-cutting is a false choice. In order to stream all this great content, you need the Internet, right? You need pretty fast and reliable Internet. Broadband costs anywhere from $30-$60 a month, depending on promotions.

You might be able to lop off $50-$100 from your monthly bill by cutting cable TV, but you can’t ditch the Internet. Time Warner and other cable companies know it, which is why they’re positioning themselves as broadband companies that do TV on the side. Kind of like how Netflix wants to stream and do DVDs on the side.

Complicating matters is the fact the Internet is meant to be mobile. My dream is to have one low-cost Wi-Fi bill for my phone and home. Right now, I pay about $50 for a data-capped phone plan that includes tethering and $45 to Time Warner for home broadband. That’s $105 a month, before taxes, on Internet. So much for reducing my TV bill. (Mi-Fi’s begin to address this, but they are still on somewhat slower over-the-air networks and the cost of entry can be high.)

Consumers will ultimately have more choice and pricing tiers as Internet TV gains a larger foothold. But we’ll always need broadband and I’m convinced we’re replacing one bill with another.