Editorial: Life without the ’Net — Tuesday’s brief outage reaffirms our online dependence
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Oct 22, 2013 | 1807 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tuesday morning, parts of Calhoun County went so 1990.

Thanks to an Internet outage traced to a maintenance project in Arizona, a few thousand Cable One customers in the county were offline for several hours.

Work stopped, or at least slowed. Frustration grew. For the affected, there was no choice but to go old school — landline telephone calls, for instance, instead of emails or Google searches. Those who had Internet access on their smartphones could still get online, though that’s not the same as a 19-inch screen and full-size keyboard sitting on your desk.

On Twitter, Calhoun Countians such as Katy Cairo, the digital media director for Anniston-based WideNet Consulting, struggled to hide their exasperation. When Cable One’s Internet connection resumed around noon, Cairo was one of those who rejoiced.

“It’s back!!! #theinternet,” she tweeted.

In other words, life commenced.

In the grand scheme of things, Tuesday was but a mere blip in modern technology. Outages aren’t infrequent. But when they happen during the workweek, they reinforce how dependent many businesses, workers and consumers have become on a reliable connection to the Web. If you were one of those in Calhoun County whose productivity was slowed Tuesday by Cable One’s problem in Arizona, you fully understand.

As for those who aren’t married to the Internet, Tuesday’s slowdown may have seemed much ado about nothing. In fact, Alabama — one of the least-wired states — is home to a high percentage of adults who do not have Internet access either at home or at work. They are the Internet-less generation.

In Alabama, 33.5 percent of residents have no Internet connection anywhere, according to July 2013 data from Governing.com (38th out of 50 states). Only one other state, Montana (9.4 percent), ranks worse than Alabama (9.3) for having residents who connect to the Internet somewhere but have no home connection. Among the uber-wired — those who connect at home and on multiple devices and locations — Alabama ranks 47th, at only 20.1 percent.

Fifteen percent of American adults do not use email or the Web, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Alabama, it would seem, could be ground zero for those who either (a.) want to use the Internet but don’t have it, or (b.) don’t use it for anything.

Studies such as the Pew report show the deep divide among regions (the South has the least Internet usage) and generations (retirees and the elderly are the least-wired). Eventually, time and improvements in broadband access will lessen those traits.

But make no mistake: we are married to the Web, for commerce, for communication, for work. Momentary blips, albeit short, are shocks to the system.
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