A recent report from 2007 Census Data showed Alabama 49 in the country, falling only behind Mississippi, in terms of being able to access the internet from home. We are 48th in having access from some location which includes public libraries, free hot spots and schools. Improved access to high speed internet is a major component of our plans to improve the quality of life in the 7th Congressional district, which is composed of some of the most impoverished counties in the country . Not being able to access information through the internet is no longer a luxury but a requirement to be competitive in education and the workforce.
This issue is going to be a major part of the Smoot for Congress (AL-07) campaign in 2010. We appreciate any comments and suggestions on this issue.
As our state and this district has lost a number of factory and blue collar jobs just in the past two years we need a level playing field. To be competitive in recruiting any industry to replace these jobs we must be able to improve the access to high speed internet.
Rural areas and low income areas in our district should no longer be at a disadvantage in the information and technology age. When we go to congress, these barriers will be removed. Even if people cannot afford a computer, we must have more places and more opportunities at schools, libraries and community centers where you can utilize high speed internet access.
The study, I’ve referenced also shows that your educational level is proportional to internet access. If you lack a high school education or a college education you more likely lack access to high speed internet access.
Internet usage also varied by education. For individuals 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree, 87 percent reported going online from any location in 2007. For those with only some college, 74 percent reported using the Internet. About half (49 percent) of those with only a high school diploma reported using the Internet, compared with 19 percent for those without a high school diploma.
The people in the 7th Congressional District are at a unique disadvantage in accessing the internet because of the impoverished conditions and the rural landscape that lacks necessary infrastructure.
The lack of being able to access information can be detrimental in other ways. Just two days ago, I wrote a diary about how coal ash from a spill in Tenn is being shipped to Perry County, Alabama. If people in this area were able to access information they could learn of the potential dangers in this toxic material being transported to their community. With better access to the internet more people could research and find out that the material could have been shipped to a location with a much closer proximity. Online organizing a very strong tool to many is not even imagined in places with very low internet access.
While most of us take internet access for granted, the lack of access is a very important issue in rural and impoverished communities. This issue is going to be a very important part of the Smoot for Congress platform.