What is standard/expected/required/necessary?
Adam Turinas, on his blog, Messing about in Sailboats, makes a request for his readers to support our Olympic team through a program called America’s Cheer. This is a very worthwhile effort, and fully deserving of support.
However, the means of showing support involve Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. Those websites eat up a lot of bandwidth and are essentially inaccessible to those of us who have dial-up connections, especially when the dial-up connections involve rural phone lines that have a lot of noise.
More and more, I encounter web sites that assume I have a high-speed connection and lots of bandwidth. NBC, which carries the Olympics this year, is one of the worst – I can’t even get to the site of my local NBC station without a half-hour wait for the download of graphics that don’t contribute any meaningful information.
And when I complain about website content that assumes high-speed connections, I am told it is my fault for not having a high-speed connection. If I want to see what NBC has to offer, all I have to do is get a high-speed connection.
The problem is that I would absolutely LOVE to have a high-speed connection. I have even been told that I NEED a high-speed connection. But neither loving nor needing translates into being able to pay for it. And right now, Pat and I are struggling just to pay for basic telephone service. There is no way we can pay for high-speed Internet.
I have also been told that we NEED cable television. We did have cable in
But both the cable television companies and the telephone companies are offering high-speed Internet connections, and now, according to some survey I read about in the newspaper, 60 percent of American households have high-speed Internet. That’s nice, but Pat and I just can’t afford to pay for a high-speed connection. And it’s frustrating to find that a growing number of websites aren’t willing to accommodate the needs of those of us who can’t get fast connections. NBC may be the worst offender in my current situation, but there are hundreds, probably thousands, of others.
This is an issue that many of my students deal with. The world assumes that my students have a certain level of technology – typically a computer at home with a reliable Internet connection. But some of my students don’t even have a computer at all, and even those who have a computer don’t always have a reliable Internet connection. I don’t have a reliable Internet connection either.
Sometimes I can make up for the shortcoming of my home computer connection by accessing information at work. But the community college at which I work has been struggling with overburdened bandwidth, and so the powers that be have cut off access to sites that eat up bandwidth, including Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr.
The problem is that the people in charge have thrown out the baby with the bathwater – sure, YouTube and Facebook don’t have any academic purpose, but one of the services that has been blocked is Google Maps – and I have lesson plans that depend on Google Maps.
But there’s an even bigger issue out there. That is the assumption that high-speed Internet is standard, and that everybody has it. Therefore, all Internet content can be graphics-intensive and full of real-time bells and whistles. That assumption cuts off anybody on a dial-up connection (like me) or anybody whose connection is overburdened (like my students).
We have created a new hierarchy of haves and have-nots. And I really don’t like being among the have-nots.