Nonprofits and nonprofit clients need broadband

Why should nonprofits care about broadband? Fellow Minnesotan (and friend) Sheldon Mains just wrote a nice article (Save the Internet, Save the World). He spells out the reasons nonprofits should care about broadband and Net Neutrality – especially if they care about their clients and community.

Sheldon has included a list of everyday tasks that require the Internet and increasingly require broadband. There was a time where broadband just made us all faster – but I recall talking to Jack Geller in March 2007 when a new report on rural Internet access had come out and he noted that this was the first year that people with broadband didn’t just do the same tasks faster – they did different things online that dialup users.

I hear from people who seem to think that broadband still just makes you faster. (Usually those people have broadband.) I think Sheldon’s best example is checking on status of anything with US Immigration and Naturalization Service; he says, “I challenge anyone to try to get through the INS process in one hour, the time limit many public libraries put on Internet use.” Right there is a reason to encourage broadband and encourage home access – I can tell you from experience that you don’t want to call the INS. (I’m a huge advocate for libraries and I love that they have access but they can’t keep up with the demand!)

When you use dialup (or even satellite or mobile broadband) you time out, you can’t view things, your response is too slow to be interactive, you would have a hard time publishing anything.

Developers used to create web sites based on an assumption that visitors have 56K connection. They don’t anymore. So while I could fill out a job application using dialup a few years ago – those applications have changed. It’s not that dialup users have gotten impatient – they really can’t access things!

So back to Sheldon – he’s done a great job speaking to nonprofit staff about broadband and Net Neutrality. If you have a friend who doesn’t get it – send him to Sheldon. (Good news for Net Neutrality supporters – Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman, has been clear on the FCC’s support of Net Neutrality.)

Clearly this has been on my mind this week. The reason is a Facebook conversation I had with someone who just didn’t see why the government should get involved with broadband in rural areas. Comments on the blog have got me thinking too – thanks!

I think Sheldon had a good answer, “Simply put, in the last 15 years, the Internet has become a necessity for participating in our society — and in most cases, high speed Internet has become a necessity.” And the market is not serving the rural corners – the business case is tough to make – but we need to do it. Just as folks have pointed out we needed to get electricity to the rural corners.

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