The Digital Divide: Technology bridge still under construction

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Recently, I posted about using Google Plus, Skype and other modern technologies as effective ways to bring family reunions to the whole family – even when many can’t make it in person.

Following that post, I went with my family to a wonderful reunion in Bear Lake Utah and Idaho where we had a great time reminiscing, water skiing – and enjoying quality time as a family.  Sure enough, not everyone could be there.

I grabbed my smartphone – no signal.  I grabbed my laptop – no signal.  I was up a technological creek.

Sunset over Bear Lake

One family member experienced a work emergency and was forced to drive around trying to find a strong-enough signal to get him on the Internet to solve the problem.

However, I was able to receive emails – on a boat in the middle of Bear Lake.  I also connected with the world while riding our rented ATVs – but not from the comfort of the cabin.

Yesterday, Google announced the availability of Google Fiber.  An ultra-high speed Internet based on wired fiber optics, it is 200 times faster than my already-fast connection at my Provo (Utah) office.  Right now, it is only available in Kansas City and is a test of what the future might look like. Read more about Google Fiber.

There are still many US locations – such as Bear Lake (Utah and Idaho) – where it’s difficult to get a connection. Fiber is a wonderful idea, but it doesn’t help to span the digital divide – it only makes it greater. Although Google Fiber offers free broadband connections for the masses – and ultra-high speed for those willing to pay for it – what about rural areas?

Skiing for the first time at the Olsen Family reunion

Skiing for the first time at the Olsen Family reunion

With my Smart Phone as my main connection to email, social media, news and family connections, it is painful to feel disconnected in social media’s modern world. As I try to connect families in real time with their own relatives and family history I am excited about the future but have to face the unconnected reality – we aren’t there yet.

Until we see stable broadband speed Internet connections in more remote areas – we were less than an hour from the college town of Logan, Utah – I’ll have to rely on the past for family history.

Past technology includes digital and video cameras, phone calls – not live Hangouts – and more. Had the technology been in place while at the lake the picture on the right, of my son water skiing for the first time, would have been a live broadcast of his skiing to many additional family and friends around the US.  Instead a picture and some video are great mementos for now.

Although we’ve come a very long way from the world of printed phone directories, 411, rotary phones, VHS and Kodak film, we are still far from the high-tech Internet world as soon as we leave the city.

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