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A map showing Greensboro's digital divide.
Click here to see the interactive map with census data.
Apr 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Permalink
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That is a very interesting map. I noticed that my neighborhood (Aycock) has 80-100% broadband adoption; Fisher Park, across the tracks, with double our median income, has 40-60%.
If you overlay the light areas on the digital map with the crime dots on the N&R's weekly crime map, I think you'll see a lot of convergence.
David Wharton |
Apr 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Even more interesting, David, about our census tract. If you use their timeline feature, we had 20% broadband in June of 2009 then shot ahead to 80% in December of the same year. Time Warner must have been offering one hell of special deal. Also interesting, and sad, to see the poverty level jump to amazing levels just one tract to our east, and south.
Check out Irving Park... "Poverty Level: N/A".
David Hoggard |
Apr 14, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Noticed I'm near the 0-20% and 20-40% divide.
Billy Jones |
Apr 14, 2012 at 02:33 PM
TW offers services all those areas, as far as I know. What choices are people making in the services they choose to pay for, and why? In the Lowdermilk area to our east, the median income is higher than in our tract, yet broadband adoption is 0-20%. In the intervening tract (area 110), incomes are much lower, but broadband is 20-40%. In fact, in all three of the areas with the least broadband, the median income is higher than in my tract. And in tract 107 (on the southwest edge of downtown), the median income is very low ($18k), with 80-100% broadband adoption.
Question: if there really is a digital divide, what's the divider? In our town, it doesn't look like either race or economics explains it.
David Wharton |
Apr 14, 2012 at 03:45 PM
a perspective not based in any degree of quantitative data, but it seems to me that the wealthy don't need (or want) to be connected at all times to society, the post-grad, young, poor demo realizes the value of being connected as it pertains to their sprouting careers, while people stuck in poverty, living day to day, view a $40 per month bill as better used toward keeping the heat on.
if costs for broadband dropped, only the eccentric wealthy demo would stay the same, IMHO.
Apr 14, 2012 at 04:02 PM
David Wharton, You make some interesting points but the notion that the Lowdermilk area is a higher income area than your own neighborhood leads me to believe the numbers are somehow skewed. Much of the properties in the Lowdermilk area are industrial-- could that have some influence on the numbers you're looking at?
Billy Jones |
Apr 14, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Billy, I'm just going by the census numbers, and I don't know how they figure that.
One other thing I noticed -- that area SW of downtown (but north of Lee/HP Road) that has high broadband/low income is UNCG and surrounding properties. And the tract just SE of downtown includes Southside.
Sean, I agree that youth probably plays a big role. % of Bachelor's degrees, too.
David Wharton |
Apr 14, 2012 at 06:49 PM
David, I looked hard at the numbers. I can't help but believe they're wrong but like you, I don't know. Also, tying in with Sean's point, there are lots of elderly people in the Lowdermilk area so that might have had something to do with the lack of broadband.
Billy Jones |
Apr 14, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Retirees are more unlikely to adopt broadband,
but are not nessessarily lower income
in what may look like a lower income nieghborhood.
Are they measuring smart phones?
I wonder how many are dropping broadband for a hand held.
Apr 14, 2012 at 07:43 PM
A hundred or even fifty years ago you would have found more books in the households of wealthier people. The public library gave those not willing or able to spend their income on books access by borrowing. This nonsense about a digital divide is mind numbing. How about a map that shows the percentages of homes with cable TV that don't subscribe to internet service. I'm betting that for the most part, the low percentage areas also have high cable TV penetration per capita. Another factor is that now virtually all laptops have WIFI and free WIFI connections are available all over town, so a budget conscious individual can get free access in minutes. As Hartzman has stated, broadband wireless (handheld) use is on the rise, and the younger demographics in particular that have abandoned land line phone service will in all likelihood abandon fixed base broadband in higher percentages. Particularly the folks that are addicted to the social media scene. By 2014 (or sooner) more than 50% of internet use in the US will be by handheld devices. (Already 90% in Japan) Cable providers see the handwriting on the wall, and you can be sure their marketing efforts to "bundle" are driven by the changing market. The "Digital Divide" is now mostly an illusion, and is far more an urban vs rural issue than a rich vs poor.
Jon Firebaugh |
Apr 15, 2012 at 08:17 AM
What's mind-numbing is conservatives' need to dismiss or justify the reality of being poor.
First, suppose it is only an urban/rural issue. That's still an issue. Second, regardless of small differences discussed previously regarding neighborhoods like Fisher Park and Aycock, the map shows an obvious divide between northwest and east Greensboro. The big picture is clear, even if some geographic detail is less so.
Finally, we see the standard middle-class misunderstanding of the poor. Hey, just buy a computer and go sit at Panera! Yes, some of this can be done satisfactorily on smartphones, but by no means all. This isn't about entertainment and casually downloading music or videos. It's about connecting with employers, maintaining healthcare information, getting an education, and much more. I wonder how much of that middle-class folks would do if it meant having to drive to Center City Park to grab some wi-fi.
Broadband access is increasingly infrastructural in nature. The digital divide matters, even if conservatives wish it would just go away.
Let them download cake!
Andrew Brod |
Apr 15, 2012 at 10:18 AM
And I really wonder how much middle-class folks would do if they had to take a bus to Center City Park to grab some wi-fi.
Andrew Brod |
Apr 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Ah, yes......yet another pitch for municipal broadband. Forget about all the evidence that shows it's a bad idea.
Apr 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM
What's mind-numbing is liberals' need to divide everything and everybody into divisible groups, classes, races, etc, so they can pit them against one another.
Looking at the map, this "digital divide", appears to me to reflect a continuum of spatial distribution, with arbitrarily drawn percentile lines giving the appearance of boundaries. You could do the same thing with anything else you want to measure: particularly wealth, and all that naturally follows it: boats, swimming pools, whatever.
Nothing wrong with that, but it's just a map, not the latest socioeconomic injustice with the rich once again screwing the poor which "we" need to rectify.
I think everyone understands the reality of being poor, and I doubt broadband comes to the fore of too many peoples' minds when they think about it.
Apr 15, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Can we avoid the temptation to make sweeping generalizations about conservatives and liberals for just a bit and think more closely about the issue Ed raised? The data on the map suggest that a good number of poor household have the means to adopt broadband and so so, while some wealthier ones do not. Obviously poverty is one of the factors in the choice, but not the only one, and maybe not the most important one. Andrew, when you say "the big picture is clear," you're just begging the question.
Consider the possibility that you're approaching the issue with a cultural bias. Academics and journalists now need broadband to do their work and advance in their fields; when we look at an area of town with low adoption of broadband, we assume that they need and want it too. You're thinking "they should be more like us!" But what's the cost/benefit ratio of broadband to a Walmart stocker or a landscaper? If you're looking for jobs, dialup is plenty fast for Craigslist. John F is probably right that some poor people choose HD TV over broadband (I see a lot of satellite dishes in those neighborhoods), and that's fine -- they've decided that they can get more benefit from watching ESPN than from reruns of Antiques Roadshow on Amazon Prime.
Certainly for the very poorest, broadband is going to be out of reach. Would broadband lift them out of poverty? That's the sheerest techno-utopianism.
The term "digital divide" is a fine example of Lakoffian framing; it implies a simple problem which has a simple solution (of did I infer wrongly, Ed, that you think municipal broadband is the solution?).
David Wharton |
Apr 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM
David, what issue did Ed raise? Some of you read his mind much better than I do.
Apr 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM
David, it's always good to hear from you. As usual, you make thoughtful points. I don't think installing free broadband everywhere solves the problem. But I also don't think pretending there's no problem is the answer. So what to do? Some education, some training... in other words, the usual social programs.
So perhaps it's more to the point to say that this is another marker of poverty. It's a correlate and not necessarily an instrument. In rural areas, broadband is more of an instrument, but in urban areas, more poverty is merely correlated with less broadband use, and to some degree access. It's not an instrument in that more broadband--by itself--won't do much to resolve the problem.
As for cultural bias, it cuts both ways. I very much agree that it colors discussions like this, and you might note that my previous comment alluded to the cultural bias in Firebaugh's it's-not-really-a-problem comment. For what it's worth, as someone who spends virtually no time any more in the ivory tower, I've had occasion over the last year or so to see very closely what goes on behind the cultural biases that middle-class people often have.
So while it's a fair point to say that expanded broadband access isn't the answer in urban areas, I think it's part of the answer.
Andrew Brod |
Apr 15, 2012 at 12:52 PM
"Finally, we see the standard middle-class misunderstanding of the poor. Hey, just buy a computer and go sit at Panera! Yes, some of this can be done satisfactorily on smartphones, but by no means all. This isn't about entertainment and casually downloading music or videos. It's about connecting with employers, maintaining healthcare information, getting an education, and much more."
Well, it's also about email and Yahoo Games and Facebook and Farmville and YouTube and so on. And news. Lots of online news. And sports! Oh my word, sports, sports, sports! Not my thing, but I hear so much about it. And politics! You'd be surprised. Lots of opinionated arguments!! Much more collective wisdom (and more respect) than you hear in a blog comment thread. (The sports discussions get crazy, though!) Not so much maintaining healthcare and getting an education for the folks I know. They go to HealthServe and the ER. And most aren't in school. But some do apply for jobs online.
I'm talking mostly about homeless people. Some formerly homeless. And some just regular poor people. They use the computers at libraries. Mostly downtown. But others across town, too. Some have internet on their phones, but they're mostly the flip phones and you can't do much with them, just check Facebook, news or sports scores. And a lot of them don't even have internet on their phones. Some don't have phones at all. There are also computers at the IRC (day center) downtown.
Even homeless and poor people have access to the internet. It's hard to think of any homeless people I know who don't use a computer at least occasionally. Their access is much more limited, of course. If you're poor, you probably can't afford to buy a computer. If you're homeless, it would be a challenge even if you could get a laptop. Hard to keep it charged, hard to keep it from getting stolen or getting wet, etc. But broadband-connected computers are available at the library and the IRC.
To me, the "digital divide" thing is a lot like healthcare. The internet is available to everyone, somewhere, somehow, and free for those who can't pay for it, but the lower your income, the lower your access and the more restrictions and obstacles you face in getting it. Same thing for food, housing, lots of things, really. It is what it is. Not sure that's good or bad. Just the way it works. The good news is that some things are equal-access: sunshine, friends, God's love. Awwww!!! :)
Apr 15, 2012 at 01:03 PM
"this "digital divide", appears to me to reflect a continuum of spatial distribution, with arbitrarily drawn percentile lines giving the appearance of boundaries. You could do the same thing with anything else you want to measure: particularly wealth, and all that naturally follows it: boats, swimming pools, whatever.
Nothing wrong with that..."
" The internet is available to everyone, somewhere, somehow, and free for those who can't pay for it, but the lower your income, the lower your access and the more restrictions and obstacles you face in getting it. Same thing for food, housing, lots of things, really. It is what it is. Not sure that's good or bad. Just the way it works."
Too much reality, common sense and acceptance from someone who actually lives there.
Falling in love all over again....<3
Apr 15, 2012 at 01:10 PM
David, "The term "digital divide" is a fine example of Lakoffian framing; it implies a simple problem which has a simple solution (of did I infer wrongly, Ed, that you think municipal broadband is the solution?)."
I'm not Ed and not so much on municipal broadband but would like to see our local municipality open to some digital competition. I think competition in itself would go a long ways towards reducing any divide real or implied.
Billy Jones |
Apr 15, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Billy: "I'm not Ed and not so much on municipal broadband but would like to see our local municipality open to some digital competition."
Hear, hear! Time Warner sucks, and they write our cable-regulating legislation to their own advantage.
David Wharton |
Apr 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM
DW, I didn't have muni broadband specifically in mind when I posted the map. I'm interested in it, but more as an avenue to the competition you and Billy endorse than an end to itself. I want broader broadband access.
Training and education are among the possible uses of the net that might be less available to people without good service. I don't think it's realistic to include it as a luxury item these days.
I didn't have issue-framing in mind when I used the term digital divide, I just used a familiar alliterative phrase to describe a phenomenon that can be mapped at the local level and that seems to me to be important. I guess that could mean I've been successfully brainwashed, or that I missed the memo on the term being irredeemably politicized, but it seems like a handy phrase to me.
Ed Cone |
Apr 15, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Sorry Andrew, but you don't get the point and I suspect don't want to. Let's see how many of the households that don't have broadband but have cable TV. Wanna make a bet on the percentages? That's personal choice, mind numbing TV or Internet Access.
Broadband internet isn't a right, it's an option. If you can't afford latte's drink something else. If you can't afford a Lexus drive a Hyundai. If you can't afford a car, people who can are paying taxes so that you can ride a bus, and a 3/4+ empty bus at that.
The statistics about how many people read non-fiction books vs pulp fiction is applicable here. Repeat: Mind numbing TV or internet access. It's "personal choice" a word combination alien to the left wing mind.
Jon Firebaugh |
Apr 16, 2012 at 10:37 PM
As far as I know there are broadband options besides Time-Warner, and for the most part they are inferior in customer service and speed. Ever deal with AT&T DSL?
Jon Firebaugh |
Apr 16, 2012 at 10:44 PM
"If you can't afford a car, people who can are paying taxes so that you can ride a bus, and a 3/4+ empty bus at that."
I recently looked at the local bus routes to see if it might be workable for me to take a bus to work. To get from home to work would include several miles of walking to and from the nearest stops. I'm not sure of the time involved, certainly over an hour each way (a 15 minute drive, normally). So what would I do if I couldn't afford a car? Was elderly or infirm? Living in the only place I could afford and working where I could find a job? "Just take the bus!" It's never that simple.
Apr 17, 2012 at 08:10 AM
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