Point and click: Alabama's 'Net problem
by Star staff
Jun 08, 2009 | 1606 views |  2 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If the future is irreversibly linked to the World Wide Web, then Alabama's potential is like a tomato plant suffering from too much sun and too little water.

It's in danger of withering on the vine.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau listed Alabama as being among the least-Internet savvy states in the Union. Another reputable survey, more negative news for the state.

Only 53.5 percent of Alabama households have Internet access, the Census says. Put another way, a frightening amount of Alabamians — darn near half — do not have the convenience of Internet access in their homes.

That three other states — Mississippi (51.5), West Virginia (52.5) and Arkansas (53.1) — were listed below Alabama should hardly be consolation to Gov. Bob Riley and others in Montgomery who are trying to bring the Web's opportunities to all parts of this state.

The reality is obvious: Alabama must become a more-wired state if it, and its residents, are to keep up in this ever-changing world that's now dependent on access to the Web.

There's solace in knowing that Riley and some legislators have been working on improving both Internet access and the availability of high-speed service for some time. This issue doesn't seem to be hidden away in the halls of lost causes on Goat Hill.

Last year, Riley supported the creation of the Alabama Broadband Initiative, which begat the "Connecting Alabama" program to bring broadband service to more areas of the state and determine why some Alabama regions are woefully un-wired. The usual suspects — poverty, lack of resources and generational issues — are factors that only get in the way of providing Internet access to more Alabamians.

The governor's office has linked broadband service to a more secure economic future: people search for jobs online, people apply for jobs online, people and businesses earn money online.

Riley and his staff are wise to glue those two issues together.

Yet, the Census statistics are harsh numbers that show how far this state still must go. Like it or not, the Internet has become a must-have part of most residents' or businesses' future. It's already difficult to conduct the daily routine without it.

That Alabama ranks near the bottom in Internet access is simply not acceptable. That's got to change if the state and its residents are to reach their full potential.
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