Listen, technology holdouts: Enough is enough

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[Commentary] Even as fanatic customers can be counted on to line up outside the Apple store for the latest iPhone, there are still millions of Americans who don’t use a smartphone at all. For that matter, there are still plenty of happy owners of tube televisions, rotary dial telephones, film cameras, fax machines, typewriters and cassette tape players. You might think the holdouts just can’t afford it, which certainly remains an important factor despite programs that subsidize both wired and wireless broadband. But the real holdup is that non-adopters — mostly older, rural and less-educated — just aren’t interested in Internet access, at any price.

As other factors such as price and usability fall, a perceived lack of relevance now dominates. To overcome the inertia of legacy customers, it may be appropriate for governments to step in. The United States has long had programs aimed at making broadband more affordable for lower-income Americans and more accessible for those living in sparsely populated areas.

[Larry Downes is a project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.]


Listen, technology holdouts: Enough is enough