Connecting to the Internet: Dirt Road or Highway?
Posted: September 13, 2012
We call this access ‘broadband’ but it’s not just limited to the options available through cable TV or DSL phone lines. When we talk about a connected community, we really mean that anyone who wants to can access the internet by smart phone, computer, handheld, etc.
Broadband is really a type of infrastructure. Just as roads, trails and sidewalks help us travel from home to school, work, shopping or wherever we choose to go, broadband infrastructure allows us to ‘travel’ to the internet. Only right now some of us are getting to the internet on superhighways while others are still on dirt roads. And if you’ll allow me to stretch the analogy a little farther, some folks just aren’t interested in leaving the homestead: they don’t think the internet has much to offer them.
Maybe not. But here are just a few ways that more and more of us are using the internet: applying for jobs, shopping, banking, managing health care, finding our kids’ homework assignments, taking college classes, talking to family members across the country or across the world, announcing new products for our customers, working from home, socializing with friends, playing games, and looking up everything you could possibly think of.
So how do we get off the front porch and onto the highway? We need to work on infrastructure, making sure everyone in the county has affordable access. But we also need to focus on outreach, helping people in every sector – families, schools, health care, small business, tourism, farmers, local governments, churches, human services, industry – understand the opportunities that the internet offers them. At the same time, we need to focus on education to show people how to use the internet and digital technologies safely and effectively.
Why is Penn State Extension involved in this effort? We can offer research-based resources including a national curriculum called Connecting Communities, along with expertise in community engagement. Our goals
· increase the availability of access to broadband connectivity
· enhance the ability of organizations in the community to use digital technology to achieve their mission and goals
· improve the ability of individuals in the community to use digital technology to improve their social and economic well-being
Does this sounds like something your community would be interest in? Check out the Connecting Communities website where you’ll find some community assessment tools to get you started. Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect you with Extension folks in your area.