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The Internet and Availability

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According to CNN, the FCC released its National Broadband Plan which seeks to give 90 percent of Americans access to affordable, high-speed internet by 2020. A focus of this measure is to get subsidized service into poor and rural areas. Will this help with emergencies in those areas? One would think so – in a crisis, we have seen that the internet figures strongly into the ability to seek help or let others know that you are okay. See our previous blog posts, “Two Earthquakes, Different Communication” and “Emergency Communications in Haiti” to read about the prominence of the internet in recent tragedies.

One of the interesting outcomes of this new age of communication is how we are now easily reached at any given time. Just think, when you fill out a form, how many points of contact are you now using? A cell phone, landline, email address, SMS, IM… We are easily found at any hour of the day. If you are in trouble and need help, being easily found is a life saver.

It is truly surprising that the United States lags behind countries in Europe and Asia in terms of internet adoption and speed of service. Digital literacy should be common and broadband access available to many more people, across the country. At the local level, those who have internet access are bound to be more involved in governing issues and more knowledgeable of services available (especially local emergency services).
Do you think that wider availability of the internet will help with disaster response? Or do you think that we generally overstate the importance of the world wide web these days?