The Broadband Gap

Huge swaths of the country are underserved.

Writing for The Verge, By Russell Brandom and William Joel take a county-by-county look at the broadband gap, showing what parts of the country have less than 15 percent of the population receiving nominally high-speed Internet access at home. Their premise:

If broadband access was a problem before 2020, the pandemic turned it into a crisis. As everyday businesses moved online, city council meetings or court proceedings became near-inaccessible to anyone whose connection couldn’t support a Zoom call. Some school districts started providing Wi-Fi hotspots to students without a reliable home connection. In other districts, kids set up in McDonald’s parking lots just to get a reliable enough signal to do their homework. After years of slowly widening, the broadband gap became impossible to ignore.

Their work produced the map above, which is static in my capture but interactive at the link.

Specifically, the colored-in areas show US counties where less than 15 percent of households are using the internet at broadband speed, defined as 25Mbps download speed. (That’s already a pretty low threshold for calling something “high-speed internet,” but since it’s the Federal Communications Commission’s standard, we’ll stick with it.)

Honestly, 15 percent strikes me as much more problematic than 25Mbps. If 84 percent of households are without broadband, that’s terrible, not a win.

Maps like this are important because, for much of the past decade, the scale of the problem has been maddeningly difficult to pin down. Most large-scale assessments of American broadband access rely on FCC data, a notoriously inaccurate survey drawn from ISPs’ own descriptions of the areas they serve. Even as the commission tries to close the broadband gap, its maps have been misleading policymakers about how wide the gap really is.

Instead of the FCC’s data, we drew on an anonymized dataset collected by Microsoft through its cloud services network, published in increments by the company over the past 18 months. If the FCC monitors the connections that providers say they’re offering, this measures what they’re actually getting. You can roll over specific counties to see the exact percentage of households connected at broadband speed, and the data is publicly available on GitHub if you want to check our work or drill down further.

The disparity between FCC reports and the Microsoft data can be shocking. In Lincoln County, Washington, an area west of Spokane with a population just a hair over 10,000, the FCC lists 100 percent broadband availability. But according to Microsoft’s data, only 5 percent of households are actually connecting at broadband speeds.

As they point out, much of this is about the business model of broadband distribution in America.

Nine counties in Nevada fall under the 10 percent threshold, covering more than 100,000 people and the bulk of the area of the state. Most of Alaska is a similar dead zone — understandably, given how rugged the state’s interior is — but similar gaps pop up in southwest New Mexico or central Texas.

Because it’s measuring usage, this data doesn’t distinguish between people who can’t buy a fast connection and people who simply can’t afford one, and in other places, you can see the connectivity problem as one more consequence of accumulated neglect. In Arizona, Apache County stands out as a long thin stripe in the northeast corner of the state, showing just 5 percent broadband usage. More than 70,000 people live there, most of them members of the Navajo, Apache, or Zuni tribes. According to the census, more than 23,000 of them are living in poverty, by far the highest poverty rate in the state. Across the border, San Juan County, New Mexico, shows 29 percent broadband usage, so the problem isn’t that the county is too remote or that the terrain is too difficult to manage. Apache County is simply poor, and the slow progress of the broadband buildout seems like a promise it will stay that way.

With the right eyes, you can even see the broadband gap as a dividing line for the US at large. Counties on the wrong side of the line are poorer and more remote, losing population even as the country grows. This is why there’s no broadband, of course: from a business perspective, building out fiber in Apache County is a losing bet. But the lack of fiber also stifles economic activity and makes young people more likely to leave, creating a cycle of disinvestment and decay that has swallowed large portions of our country.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, where I live, 92 percent of households have broadband. In neighboring Loudoun County, where I lived when I moved to the area (and home of AOL, Verizon, and other big tech companies) it’s 98 percent. In Pike County, Alabama, where I lived before moving here, it’s only 18 percent, despite Troy University accounting for a significant chunk of its population. (And, yet, Pike County is still above the 15 percent threshold, and thus not highlighted as a problem).

One caveat to all of this is that this doesn’t seem to account for people who have high-speed connections via their mobile devices. I would imagine there is a significant chunk of relatively-well-off households, particularly younger ones, who simply see no need for a separate service when the can just stream Netflix on their iPads.

Brandom and Joel note that President Biden’s infrastructure bill aims to correct this problem:

In theory, this is a problem the federal government is getting ready to fix. President Biden has proposed $100 billion in broadband funding as part of the American Jobs Plan, more than twice what the FCC estimated would be necessary to bring broadband to 98 percent of households. But it will be a long walk from appropriating that money to actually laying fiber in places like Apache County. That road starts with taking a long look at the shaded parts of this map and thinking about what it will take to truly get them online.

While “laying fiber” strikes me as an outdated approach, it does indeed still seem to be the only way currently available to distribute truly high-speed, reliable service. There are cheaper, faster-to-implement wireless options but they’re slower and have significantly more latency.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Specifically, the colored-in areas show US counties where less than 15 percent of households are using the internet at broadband speed, defined as 25Mbps download speed. (That’s already a pretty low threshold for calling something “high-speed internet,” but since it’s the Federal Communications Commission’s standard, we’ll stick with it.)

    I probably agree with the overall thrust but defining broadband at 25 Mbps is skewing the numbers. I’m on a 24Mbps band which powers quite well 4 laptops, 4 phones connected through wifi, and 2 streaming televisions. I don’t think we are deprived. Service is ATT. Alternate choice would be cable (Spectrum) which, while it advertises much higher speeds, is a terrible service.

    ATT offers several internet service below 25Mbps at lower rates which may account for the 58% broadband usage rate for Bexar County(San Antonio). Heck, even Austin only approaches 64% usage rate.

    I wonder how much of this problem is a “last mile” problem. Most internet pipes run along railroad rights of way (which is one of the reasons San Antonio has large data hubs). It is like electricity. It costs money to get services out to remote rural areas (electricity, mail, paved roads, etc.)

    8
  2. Mu Yixiao says:

    1) This has been known for at least a decade. It’s absolutely not new.

    2) The Federal government has handed out billions of dollars to major ISPs to expand their coverage into rural and under-served areas. The ISPs took the money and did nothing.

    3) Starlink is stepping up and taking over. On their own dime (though they did just win a reverse auction to get some of the funds that the others have been taking forever).

    7
  3. Teve says:

    I live in a somewhat rural area of North Florida and can’t get any type of wired internet connection, so my solution was to get AT&T’s highest data plan and a tablet. I just did a speed test and I’m getting 82 megabits per second. Starlink is a potentially attractive option.

    1
  4. Kathy says:

    IMO, a good map could be made by the number of households running streaming services. try doing that without decent download speeds.

    5
  5. JohnMcC says:

    The Rural Electrification Act in ’36 set up co-ops throughout America’s countryside and allowed them to borrow from the Fed Gov’t to set up necessary physical infrastructure and then to buy power from commercial generators.
    Seems like a better approach than incentives to amazingly rich ISPs to provide that service. Also more likely to provide services affordable to those served.

    4
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    So, what we’re seeing here is that hicks get lousier internet? They get lousier pizza, too.

    The unexamined assumption is that broadband is necessarily a good thing.

    3
  7. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Given the widespread damage done in and by social media, one could argue rather than more broadband we need less. Or, in fact, sub-dial-up speeds, for more people.

    You know, return to the 1980s 🙂

    4
  8. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: Incidentally (and I can’t believe I didn’t say this above!) there are hundreds of those co-ops still existing. There have been various updates attempted to the 1935 law that mostly seem to have failed to pass congress. No modifications for broadband have passed as far as my inexpert and brief research could find.

  9. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If we make the assumption that economic growth is driven by increases in productive capacity, that’s the argument for it. Most productivity gains are coming from innovation in and reduced friction from the digital space.

    It’s infrastructure. (so is healthcare.)
    Infrastructure is the backbone of free markets.

    6
  10. Jen says:

    Much of this IS a last mile problem, and ISPs have little interest in changing it. One of the things I find most obnoxious are the efforts of the big players in this to enact state-level legislation that prohibits municipal broadband. You don’t want to provide service to these communities but ALSO want to prevent them from getting it themselves? Pound sand. And yet, they’ve been very effective in passing model legislation from ALEC that does precisely this.

    Broadband is like electricity at this point–if you don’t have high speed you can live, sure, but you cannot participate in the economy at the same level as those who do.

    And, while James’ point about mobile is well-taken, I’d recommend overlaying this map with a 4G map–many of the areas underserved by broadband also have garbage cell service.

    4
  11. just nutha says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Absolutely! Those people have no right to expect services living fwkall away from where intelligent, civilized people live. Fwk em! And if their kids can’t keep up in school, doesn’t matter. Education is wasted on them anyway. They voted for the wrong guy. They HAVE NO rights anymore.

    6
  12. just nutha says:

    @Jen: If they want to participate in the economy, then they should move to where the economy exists and upgrade their skills so that they can avail themselves of it. Trying to help those people is just throwing good money after bad.

    2
  13. Michael Cain says:

    While “laying fiber” strikes me as an outdated approach, it does indeed still seem to be the only way currently available to distribute truly high-speed, reliable service.

    Yep. Terrestrial broadband service is provided over hybrid fiber-something networks. The something solves the last-mile distribution problem. DSL is hybrid fiber-twisted-pair. Cable modem service is hybrid fiber-coax. Cellphone based service is hybrid fiber-radio. Every one of those one-per-block 5G cellular base stations is going to be attached to a fiber. Even the relatively rare fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-business where fiber is extended all the way to the customer premises are usually fiber-fiber hybrids, with two different sets of technology used. The problem for rural areas is that the somethings we have all have limited range, a kilometer or two. Takes an insane amount of fiber to pass within a couple kilometers of all the rural households/businesses. Oh, and every one of those fiber-to-something transitions points requires reliable electrical power.

    2
  14. Jen says:

    @just nutha: Respectfully disagree. I understand what you are saying, but there are plenty of reasons to connect these areas.

    “Smart Ag” practices that can help us save water and reduce/be smarter about pesticide use depend on broadband access. If we want cyber-secure wind energy, we’ll need broadband to these areas. Telemedicine is the best way to keep people in rural areas connected to doctors.

    And on and on.

    5
  15. Franklin says:

    The lack of infrastructure in rural areas doesn’t seem to stop the spread of misinformation. But I am actually curious- if these people had more access to the diverse knowledge that the Internet provides, would it change a single person’s mind?

    2
  16. Nightcrawler says:

    @Franklin:

    if these people had more access to the diverse knowledge that the Internet provides, would it change a single person’s mind?

    Probably not, but “changing minds” isn’t why I support universal access to broadband. I support it because it allows people to fully participate in society, particularly now that so many jobs are remote. Universal broadband access would give people living in desperately poor areas access to jobs that they didn’t have before.

    6
  17. Nightcrawler says:

    @Jen:

    Telemedicine, medical IoT devices, smart ag, access to skills training and remote work, lots of reasons.

    4
  18. Michael Cain says:

    @Franklin:

    The lack of infrastructure in rural areas doesn’t seem to stop the spread of misinformation.

    Fox News is available essentially everywhere via Dish and DirecTV satellite service. Up until his death, AM radio carrying Rush Limbaugh’s daily show covered pretty much every square inch.

    2
  19. DrDaveT says:

    Following up on @Michael Cain, I have had professional opportunities to have to explain to senior military leaders why they can’t have iPhone-like capabilities on the battlefield. Cellular telephony is not wireless, except for the very last tiny hop from the tower to your phone and back. Without that enormous infrastructure of fiber optic cable and cell towers and wideband multiplexers, you can have:
    1. Walkie-talkies
    2. Tactical radios that require line of sight* for high data rates or enormous heavy batteries to provide reasonable ranges.
    3. Satellite phones/terminals that don’t work while you’re moving
    4. That’s about it.

    *You’d be amazed how few pairs of locations on the surface of the earth can actually see each other well enough to carry broadband signals.

    2
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    The problem isn’t just that broadband allows more goobers to get more access to more of the lies they gobble up, but that it enables these same idiots to signal-boost the stupid.

    I am not convinced that the internet is a net positive for society. The rise of social media has magnified societal divisions and accelerated the deterioration of western society. Ask yourself, was democracy less stable before or after broadband? Is the quality of information consumed – not available, but consumed – better or worse, more or less honest? We are divided and virtually paralyzed, afraid of the future. Do you feel more hope now than you did 20 years ago, or less? Do you have a higher opinion of your fellow Americans, or is your opinion more cynical, more jaundiced? Are you happier?

    3
  21. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Couldn’t the “last mile” problem be solved with wireless internet and repeating towers in rural areas?

  22. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Kathy:

    Couldn’t the “last mile” problem be solved with wireless internet and repeating towers in rural areas?

    You still have to run power to those towers. Starlink is the best solution.

  23. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Ask yourself, was democracy less stable before or after broadband? Is the quality of information consumed – not available, but consumed – better or worse, more or less honest?

    The good news is that the early days of the printing press looked very much like this. We eventually got over it, and I think it’s clear that mass printing has been an overall good.

    6
  24. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I remember the dial-up era. You could easily run Fakebook and Twitter at those speeds, albeit with fewer videos.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the damage isn’t caused more by the constant 24/7 access to such media over cellphones.

    2
  25. Kurtz says:

    @Franklin:

    The lack of infrastructure in rural areas doesn’t seem to stop the spread of misinformation. But I am actually curious- if these people had more access to the diverse knowledge that the Internet provides, would it change a single person’s mind

    @Michael Cain:

    Fox News is available essentially everywhere via Dish and DirecTV satellite service. Up until his death, AM radio carrying Rush Limbaugh’s daily show covered pretty much every square inch.

    Michael is correct. Fox has staked a position of deniability plausible enough for plenty of people because they’re just asking questions. But the evening shows pick up the bullshit from blogs, etc. Newsmax backs down and settles with Dominion. Meanwhile, OANN runs the Mike Lindell ‘documentary’ with a disclaimer that the views are his own.

    The point is stemming the tidal wave of misinformation won’t happen. Because like that misnomer–it’s a system of independent, but interconnected waves. It’s not a single big one.
    So it’s not about changing minds, or deplatforming regressive ideas. It’s about reducing the impact of conditions that enable fertilizing the soil with bullshit, sewing rage, and reaping the benefits.

    Conspiracism will always exist. It always has. But it remains in the realm of street corner eschatologists unless enough of the population has nothing to do but sit and listen.

    Fix the economy; fix the isms.

  26. David S. says:

    Appreciation for Michael Reynolds making the “we need better voters, not more voters” argument.

  27. just nutha says:

    @Jen: Respectful disagreement not necessary. As I note for a similar rant over at the Forum today, my inner asshat is running wild and free today. I can’t imagine what triggered him .

    2
  28. just nutha says:

    @just nutha: RATS!!!! When you left click an emoji here it doesn’t appear in the message. Imagine a thinking face or eyeroll emoji at the end of my last comment, please.

    1
  29. just nutha says:

    @Michael Cain: That may not explain people who lack the economic resources to pay for satellite service. On the other hand, given the number of people I’ve seen in my neighborhood who are reconnecting existing satellite antennas on houses they’ve only recently occupied, maybe satellite isn’t something everybody pays for anymore.

    1
  30. grumpy realist says:

    Then there’s the flip side of the problem, where everyone in Silicon Valley dreaming of new products assumes that you have a T1 coming to your house and designs appropriately…

    Sometimes I think that before anyone designs any new hot internet service said individual should be forced to live out in the boonies for 6 months with 1200 baud dial-up as his/her only connection.

    2
  31. Andy says:

    I work in the mobile and wireless internet industry and geography and density are definitely the primary issues.

    There’s also the question of defining broadband and the various needs of individuals and families. Zoom-style video-conferencing doesn’t take a ton of bandwidth, I’ve done it regularly with less than 3Mbps. For essential tasks like work and school, 25Mbps is plenty. It’s when people start wanting to stream 4k video where that starts to get “slow.”

    Starlink is definitely going to be a pretty big game-changer. I’ve been testing the system for the last couple of months for work and it’s pretty amazing. But SpaceX needs to launch a lot more satellites, get the Gen 2 birds in orbit, and other things done before they have the capacity to really service the need. Plus all that has to be licensed and approved by the feds. SpaceX will also need to get the hardware cost down – they’re losing over $1000 on each system sold for the beta program, they probably can’t do that once it goes retail. And I’m not really convinced they can have 300Mbps bandwidth with no data caps for $100/month and still be profitable. But fingers crossed. And even at $100/month that is too high a price for many.

    But really diversity is required for this problem. Satellite systems like Starlink will make the most sense for some places. Fixed wireless/cellular for others, fiber for others. And this is all assuming the backbones and links get the requisite upgrades.

    3
  32. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy:

    I remember the dial-up era. You could easily run Fakebook and Twitter at those speeds, albeit with fewer videos.

    I am astounded how much Facebook downloads. It starts with a chunk of HTML that downloads the JavaScript for the entire user interface, than each of those scripts downloads a bunch of data that only gets used if you invoke some part of the interface. Changing from one view to the other is quite fast, but only because all of them have been downloaded in advance. I would not be surprised if there’s at least a couple of megabytes of stuff that comes down just to get the page loaded.

    One of the usual tricks to limit download volume is to turn off JavaScript so it’s not doing odd things in the background. Last time I checked, with JS disabled Facebook is simply a blank page.

    1
  33. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Ask yourself, was democracy less stable before or after broadband? Is the quality of information consumed – not available, but consumed – better or worse, more or less honest? We are divided and virtually paralyzed, afraid of the future. Do you feel more hope now than you did 20 years ago, or less? Do you have a higher opinion of your fellow Americans, or is your opinion more cynical, more jaundiced? Are you happier?

    post hoc ergo propter hoc

    Periods of divisiveness happened in pre-internet societies, in preindustrial societies, in pre-printing press societies, in pre-written words societies . . .

    1994 was a watershed for divisiveness. At the time, only two percent of American households had internet access that year. That number rapidly increased by 1998, but still was only 24%. (source)

    And of the 2% in 1994, only about 20% went online everyday.

    Even if you’re correct that the internet is a net negative, it’s not going away. But you’re not correct. The most one can say is that it magnifies problems that were already there.

    1
  34. Kurtz says:

    @Andy: @Michael Cain:

    Thank you for the technical explanations.

    @DrDaveT:

    Good point about the ‘wireless’ not really being wireless.

    2
  35. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Andy:

    And I’m not really convinced they can have 300Mbps bandwidth with no data caps for $100/month and still be profitable.

    You have to remember that they’re working on getting licenses around the world, so where a geo-sync is getting paid in one time zone, they have the potential to get paid in 24.

    Even more than that, they’re working on a military contract and have gotten permission for mobile units–which allows them to get into the market for ocean liners. That’s where the profit is going come from. I saw the price list for “satellite to a ship”, and at the speeds Starlink can offer, it’s in the tens of thousands a month for a single connection.

    1
  36. Andy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I’m sure they will have service tiers like everyone else with government and big users paying more. How consumer-level service will shake out in that is very uncertain at present, however. Like any network, they will have capacity limits they’ll have to manage, a lesson the cellular carriers learned the hard way when they tried to deliver unlimited, unthrottled ISP-like data service via cellular to consumers.

    1
  37. Kathy says:

    @Kurtz:

    How about 2001? That’s a good 20 years ago, without social media but plenty of internet access.

    I don’t have figures, but I do recall a massive amount of misinformation online, and off, about the 9/11 attacks. Truthers, Muslims celebrating in NY/NJ, car bombs going off at the State Department and elsewhere, etc.

    But, 1) this was a rather fringe position, and 2) there was no partisan division.

    the reverse of division, really. Bush the younger’s popularity shot up.

  38. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I didn’t know that.

    I tend not to pay attention to anything but the “news” feed.

  39. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The problem isn’t just that broadband allows more goobers to get more access to more of the lies they gobble up, but that it enables these same idiots to signal-boost the stupid.

    I am not convinced that the internet is a net positive for society. The rise of social media has magnified societal divisions and accelerated the deterioration of western society. Ask yourself, was democracy less stable before or after broadband?

    I tend to think the internet and “broadband” were great until the social media companies came along. 90% of the problems we see today are, IMO, the direct result of business models that rely on algorithm-driven engagement which has proven to be a bad mix with the way we’re wired as a species.

    5
  40. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    I tend to think the internet and “broadband” were great until the social media companies came along. 90% of the problems we see today are, IMO, the direct result of business models that rely on algorithm-driven engagement which has proven to be a bad mix with the way we’re wired as a species.

    Yeah, this is pretty much on point. Basically, they figured out how to legalize and perfect highly effective “free” drugs.

    3
  41. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Andy:

    …rely on algorithm-driven engagement which has proven to be a bad mix with the way we’re wired as a species.

    Algorithm-driven engagement is a great deal for the social media companies as it keeps they eyes on their sites. Unfortunately is bad for the user (who may not realize it) and for society, but the companies don’t care.

    2
  42. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:
    IIRC, the appearance of the printing press in Europe helped to fuel the Reformation and the attendant century or so of religious wars.

    @Kurtz:
    In 1994 I was not seriously considering the possibility that we might have Civil War 2.0.

    @Andy:
    Indeed. But was it ever likely we’d have internet without some bright bulb figuring out a Facebook type thing?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. But I also love Bourbon, Scotch, weed, fast cars, cigars and sugar in all forms, none of which is good for me.

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kurtz: Fixing the economy would be great in any event, but I’m not sure that it has an entirely salutary effect when I consider that for some (most?) of the subscribers to the tidal wave of misinformation part of “fix the economy” means restore the CLANGGGGs, CLLLAAAANNNGGGs, and CCCLLLAAAAANNGGGs to the underclass where they belong.

    1
  44. Moosebreath says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    “Unfortunately is bad for the user (who may not realize it) and for society, but the companies don’t care.”

    Yep. I am very glad I never acquired the social media habit. I find it hard to convince people I speak to that they are the product which social media sells.

  45. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In 1994 I was not seriously considering the possibility that we might have Civil War 2.0.

    But blaming the internet as a technological development rather than how it has been used is silly.

    Indeed. But was it ever likely we’d have internet without some bright bulb figuring out a Facebook type thing?

    They did. YouTube was created in 2004. So was Facebook. But FB wasn’t the first social media company–MySpace and Friendster were first. FB just provided a better product for users.

    But it took both platforms years to get to the point that they created serious problems at a mass scale. Users are incentivized to be controversial, edgy, and stupid because that’s what gets them attention. FB and YT are incentivized to push the outrageous shit to users because that’s what gets consumer’s attention. It’s a feedback loop.

    1
  46. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Much of what social media does is trigger addictive reactions in people. I don’t know if that was the initial intent, but over time smart people recognized that certain patterns caused ‘stickiness’ for the websites and it’s been all downhill from there.

    I’ve never used Facebook, but when it came around, friends who did use it, told me that they enjoyed connecting with long lost people they new and it helped in keeping up with family news. None of that interested me, but I could see how it met a need for them. Unfortunately the algorithm kicked in and now they’re either off Facebook or crazy.

    I’ve had a blog and a tumblr for images, but the only truly (my opinion) social media type website that I was on, was Linkedin. That was for business purposes and I deleted my account when I retired.

  47. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: FB actually tested a ‘good news’ feed where they gave you positive stories, and didn’t try to enrage you, and it worked, but it caused users to spend less time on the site. So they canceled the project.

    NYU business prof Scott Galloway makes the point that every single time Facebook has a choice between being a good for the world and making more money, they choose the money, and Mark Zuckerburp is the worst thing to happen to the world in our lifetimes.

    2
  48. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy:

    If you have the tools, load the Washington Post front page in a JavaScript-enabled environment. Wait 24 hours. A staggering amount of data has been sucked own. Last I checked, the front page does a complete reload every five minutes.

  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kurtz:

    But blaming the internet as a technological development rather than how it has been used is silly.

    Not sure I agree with that. Hard to bomb a city without airplanes. Sure, blame the bomber pilot, but without the bomber and the bomb he’s just some guy.

  50. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy:

    There was more division than you think. The difference was not just near-universal agreement on an issue, but also the salience of that issue. Most of that had dissolved by 2004. His yearly average spread over his two terms:

    01: +41.1
    02: +48.3
    03: +23.4
    04: +3.9
    05: -5.5
    06: -18.6
    07: -27.3
    08: -35.6

    From 2002 to 2004 approval dropped by 12.2 pts then by another 9 pts. Over the same period, disapproval rose by 23.7 pts then by another 10.5 pts. This is somewhat expected, because there was only ~14 months between 9/11 and the midterms. But with the 2004 election came a return of division. But his numbers never recovered, overall.

    And the 2004 election polling shows just how important it was for Bush to have both widespread agreement on both position on an issue and the salience of that issue:

    Most important issue to your vote by partisanship/likely voters.

    Economy:

    GOP: 19% (!!!) Ind: 31% Dems: 42%

    Terrorism:

    51-29-9% (!!!) (also, notice how independents almost exactly split the difference on those two issues…it’s almost as if independents are _________)

    Iraq:

    23-22-28

    Healthcare:

    6-17-19

    There is another interesting chart in that write-up. I encourage you to peruse it.

    2001 internet numbers:

    Different government source, the other one didn’t go past 1998. The numbers are slightly, not wildly, different for ’98.

    Total users/Using home access

    1998: 32.7%/22.3%
    2001: 53.9%/43.6%

    Plus, the difference between the internet then and the internet now is night and day. And not just ubiquity and the transition from using a pc to phones and tablets.

    Content went from mostly text based to heavy video (McLuhan and Postman relevant here)

    Media/news consumption fragmented from a handful of firms to a democratized model to a partial re-consolidation of gatekeepers but with less influence than before.

    Social media emerged first then figured out a profit model later and that model is…no good for society.

    And that changed media/news again via changing the point of consumption for a decent chunk of the population. . .weakening gatekeepers more and influencing the content of traditional outlets.

  51. grumpy realist says:

    I must be one of the few persons who indeed has the bulk of what shows up on her FB page people’s pictures of what’s blooming in the garden and the family pets. I spend more time on YT but even there my suggested feed has a lot of cat videos and BBC documentaries.

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  52. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Why not just blame the bomb? An airplane has other uses besides bombing.

    Just as the internet has uses other than radicalization as a second order effect of a particular business model in a flawed economic system.

    Are you okay, dude? You have strong opinions, always. But this strikes me as un-Michael for some reason I can’t figure.

  53. Kurtz says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I think someone linked to this Chait piece here, or maybe it was in my Chrome feed.

    I skimmed he study he cites. I’ll probably read it more closely Here’s the abstract:

    How do racial attitudes shape policy preferences in the era of Black Lives Matter andincreasingly liberal views on racial issues? A large body of research finds that highlightingthe benefits of progressive policies for racial minorities undermines support for those policies.However, Democratic elites have started centering race in their messaging on progressivepublic policies. To explore this puzzle, in this paper we offer an empirical test that examinesthe effect of describing an ostensibly race-neutral progressive policy with racial framing, asused by Democratic elites, on support for that policy. To benchmark these effects, wecompare a race policy frame with class, class plus race, and neutral policy frames. Wedemonstrate that despite leftward shifts in public attitudes towards issues of racial equality,racial framing decreases support for race-neutral progressive policies. Generally, the class frame most successfully increases support for progressive policies across racial and political subgroups.

    IIRC, @Jen, along with several others of us here, have made this argument before. She knows a bit about political messaging.

    Are there still going to be racists? Yes. But race-based messaging triggers (ha) them and they’re willing to oppose policies that help them and they would otherwise support.

    @gVOR invokes Luntz a lot. This study resembles the same kind of focus groups that Luntz employed to build a reputation and wealth.

  54. gVOR08 says:

    There are, indeed, many people without broadband, and it would be good if they had it. It is sort of like not having electric power, telephones, railroads, or telegraph when those things were new. But I have a bit of a pet peeve against describing this as huge swaths. Maps like the above are somewhat misleading, exactly as the usual red/blue maps are. We have a lot of acres without broadband. It’s also a lot of people, but not near as many as this map seems to show.

    My county in FL, Sarasota, has 434 thousand people. The map shows us gray, with broadband. The map shows three blue counties east of us, as big or bigger, blue, without much broadband. But the three together are less than 80 thousand. A map of FL below Orlando scaled by population would look like a gray stripe separating the Atlantic and Gulf with a couple tiny, thin blue vertical dashes in the middle.