Port Huron In Midst of Newbie Invasion
Oh, good, you're on the Internet.
And if you're a Blue Water baby, chances are this is a recent
Despite all the buzz the past few years about the Internet and
the World Wide Web and "universal access," the fact remains that most
people, and the vast majority of people in rural areas, are just
discovering the Internet.
A frequent complaint of rural newbies, and one heard quite often
hereabouts, is: "I can't get local access." And indeed it's true. If
you live in St. Clair County and aren't in a Port Huron or Marysville
telephone exchange, you probably have to pay long-distance charges to
get on line. Bummer.
Here's some more bad news: Check your phone bill, because you're
probably paying for Internet access even if you don't use it.
I can hear you saying: "???!!!!???" Allow me to clarify.
One of the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was
that public institutions receive federally-mandated discounts from
phone companies for Internet installation and service. Libraries and
schools, for example, can receive substantial discounts in the cost
of installing T-1 lines. Last month the Associated Press reported
that most phone companies will begin recouping their losses (read:
restoring their accustomed profit margins) by upping the ante for
basic phone service to everyone else. These increases should begin
showing up on phone bills early in 1998.
So once again government and big business have conspired to
redistribute wealth in a way that is essentially painless for
politicians and stockholders and somewhat of a pain in the pocketbook
for everyone else.
The moral of the story is that if you live in a rural area and
can't find an internet service provider that will get you connected
for the cost of a local call, you should pop on down to the nearest
public library, announce that you are a member of the new underclass
known as the "information poor," and ask what the library plans to do
about it. And if you have kids in public schools, make sure they're
getting their fair share also.
Speaking of kids, I used to subscribe to the popular myth that
kids knew more about computers than us old fogies, based, I suppose,
on the theory that the schools were filled with computers and the
little dears practically lived on them. I don't know how this rumor
got started. The kids I know can whip my butt at Nintendo, and that
seems to be the extent of their "computer literacy," if you can call
In the meantime grandpa and grandma got a high-end PC for
Christmas and don't know the first thing about it. More's the pity if
they think the grandkids are going to teach them how to use it the
same way their kids showed them how to program their VCR back in the
So if you are importuned for sage words of PC advice by grandma
and grandpa, or any of the other hordes of newbies buzzing around the
hive, Elmo's advice to you is to ask the standard question: "What do
you want to use your computer for?" Nine times out of ten you'll hear
the same thing: Internet access and e-mail. Suggest they get rid of
their PC and start thinking about Web TV.
I admit it: I don't know the first thing about Web TV except for
what I read in the papers. It seems like a match made in heaven--use
the idiot box to surf the Net. Most people have about as much use for
actual computing applications at home as I have for newborn triplets.
I bought my computer over two years ago and still have never used
half the software it came with. You wanna write letters, dust off
that old typewriter and go to it. You want Internet and email,
investigate this Web TV thing. Let me know what you find out.