186 South College

grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Month: April 2015

Is Some Internet Better Than No Internet?

As an American, I enjoy many rights. When you think about these rights, you probably jump straight to those mentioned in the Constitution, or the famous rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in the Declaration of Independence. But in the twenty-first century, do people have the right to Internet access? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg thinks so, and his latest project is addressing this topic.

The creation, entitled Internet.org, aims to “connect the two-thirds of the world that don’t have Internet access”, according to the website’s “About” section. A BBC article reports that the site would utilize a “zero-rating” policy, where telecommunications providers do not pass on the costs of handling data traffic onto the consumer. This process is not the same here in the U.S., and this policy would allow for hundreds of millions of poorer people in developing countries who have no Internet access at all to finally be able to connect.

Critics of this practice argue that it limits the amount of competition present on the site. Telecommunications providers that can’t afford to not pass data traffic costs onto consumers would be unable to access Internet.org. Zuckerberg’s response to these criticisms is that, “if someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have access than none at all.”

I would like to take a moment to reflect on this statement. The concept of the Digital Divide – or the gap between those who can afford to and have Internet access, and those who cannot afford it and do not have access – has been a topic that has been discussed a lot in my Digital Technology & Politics course. For me, this issue seems to be a no-brainer; in today’s day and age, Internet accessibility is increasingly becoming a right that everybody deserves to have. So many of the opportunities that I have would not be possible with the Internet. My college education would be poor because I wouldn’t have the ability to research topics or find information that I had questions about. I would be unable to vote because as an out-of-state college student, I am unable to get to my polling place on Election Day, and so I rely on the absentee ballot (whose application is, you guessed it, online). And finally, I would be unable to stay in touch with my family. The Internet allows me to share my life’s musings with those that I love, both across the United States as well as my relatives around the world. The Internet allows me to exercise my other rights, and I believe that this should not be an exclusive club that only a fraction of the world is able to enjoy.

But, the Internet access that I enjoy, and the Internet access that Internet.org will bring, are two different Internets. I can fortunately afford to access all of the Internet’s websites. Internet.org will only allow users to connect with sites that have the ability to not pass any costs onto the consumer. The number of sites that have the means to do this are very small, and I ask myself: is some access better than no access?

I’m going to end up agreeing with Zuckerberg on this. While it is not a perfect situation, millions of people will be able to tap into more of the Internet than they currently can. Additionally, as more time passes, more and more sites will have the ability and the resources to not have to pass any costs onto the users, which will allow more sites to join Internet.org.

I can confidently say that the Internet has influenced by life for the better. So many opportunities that I have had would not have been possible without the Internet, and I cannot wait to see what new comes from it. Innovations such as Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org will allow more people to exercise their inherent right to have access to all that the Internet has to offer. A right that, I believe, is absolutely essential to have in a twenty-first century world.

~Scott Eisenhart

The Law of Averages

The first time I remember receiving a genuine compliment, I was five years old. My neighbor told me I was really good at braiding hair (which I had been practicing for weeks on the heads of unsuspecting Barbie dolls). My neighbor was in no way related to me or otherwise obligated to bolster my kindergarten self-esteem. I knew that she meant what she said.

That’s the first time I remember thinking that I was really good at something. Something tangible. Something unique. Something that warranted honest compliments. I was a better-than-average braider of hair.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I’m slightly above average in a number of ways. I’m a pretty good stick-shift driver. I’m a gifted list-maker. I’m an expert orange peeler. But age has also brought with it a sense of inadequacy. There are days when I feel overwhelmingly average, when I wonder why I haven’t founded a non-profit yet or invested in the stock market. Days when I conclude that my life has no true direction. Days when I can sense my own anonymity, when I can feel my smallness, when I realize that despite my best efforts I am no more important than a speck of dust in this grand universe.

The truth of the matter is that I am exceptionally average. It’s not a statement of self-deprecation. It’s just a fact. There are seven billion people who live on this planet. To think that I am somehow above average would be to deny statistics altogether, to deny the greatness of thousands of millions of others that I will likely never meet.

I’m average. And there’s a pretty good chance you are too. You are also a speck of dust in this grand universe. That’s life. Part of being human is exercising imperfection, understanding that you can never be good at the summation of all talents, abilities, or skills. You are destined to be good at some things and bad at others. You will average out.

“Average”, however, is not to be confused with “inadequate”. Being average doesn’t make you a less gifted individual or a less productive member of society. It makes you flawed and it makes you interesting, but most importantly, it makes you human. You are one of seven billion other seemingly average souls, all of whom have strengths and weaknesses. I haven’t founded my own non-profit or invested in the stock market and my direction is lacking. But I can drive stick and make lists and peel oranges. I can braid hair. I can learn to accept the fact that there will be someone who is smarter than me or more charming than me or funnier than me. Because at the end of the day, they’re probably average too. And that’s life.

~Erin Dugan

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