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Do We Need More Internet?


Don’t get me wrong. I am 100% pro-Joe and 100% behind maintaining the sanity of a blue Congress next year. Yesterday the Democratic Campaign Committee called me and before she could start her spiel, I gave them their monthly fifty bucks. You should do it too.

Be that as it may, although I have no problem looting the Federal Treasury and priming the economic pump with Federal tax dollars, I happen to believe that the infrastructure bill has all kinds of monies being laid out for stuff we really don’t need.

I am referring to the $65 billion which is earmarked to give every American household a direct connection to hi-speed internet. The project is being touted as having been inspired by the effort to electrify every American home a hundred years ago.

Shades of the WPA and all those photos of the shacks up in the Kentucky hollers or the migrants begging for water as they drove their shitty, old trucks from the Dust Bowl states to the West Coast. How can we not want to make sure that every American is up to speed today?

I have been using the internet since before there was an internet. In 1987 I had an account at Columbia University which allowed me to send text messages through the original email system that was still controlled by the military but would then be morphed over into civilian hands.

I built my first website in 1995, the same year that a startup company called Netscape did its IPO and was one of the technology companies which raised almost $10 billion that year. That sum is a big yawner now when it comes to internet finance, but it was a very, big deal back in 1995.

The problem with the early internet, however, is that the moment you moved from text to graphics, you needed faster transmission and faster processing speeds. Between developing chips that were both smaller and faster, and replacing telephone lines with hi-speed cables, this whole big deal took about twenty years.

But the biggest change was when technology moved the whole communication system from computer hard drives to droids and iPhones. You find me one kid over the age of nine or ten who doesn’t have his own handheld device and I’ll show you the only kid in America who doesn’t have a handheld phone.

The sponsors of this infrastructure bill say that the $65 billion will help ‘close the digital divide.’ What divide are they talking about? Nobody connects their home up with the internet. Their home is simply an address where they get the monthly handheld bill if they don’t opt to have the monies taken right out of their phone.

What has the internet become, now that virtually everyone is connected online? And by the way, according to Pew, 97% of all Americans own a cellphone of some kind. We should do such a good job of getting everyone vaxxed against Covid-19.

The internet has become a transmission belt for every company who wants to advertise some crap we can buy. I am inundated by video advertisements both on my laptop and my phone, but I don’t respond to messages asking me to provide my current location so that I can get a text about a 30-minute price drop on some cheese being sold at the local Whole Foods.

I am increasingly tempted to throw out my droid and delete the internet browsers from my laptop. But then how would I write my blogs and worse, how would you survive without reading my breathless prose?

I sometimes wonder what it was like to live and work in a world which only had natural light. I don’t have any memories of what the world was like before radio and TV, and I’m even beginning to lose the memories of how I typed and used carbon copies before the first Xerox machine appeared in 1959.

But I don’t believe we looted the Federal Treasury to provide every office in America with a copying machine, and I don’t understand believe that we should be closing any kind of ‘digital divide’ so that I can become an even more committed consumer by going online.

I’m an old guy and everyone knows that things always get better all the time.

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