Opinion

Be warned there will be more digital have-nots


Data is something that those of us who have smart phones and take for granted are going to have to get used to paying for in the future.

As the hundreds queued down Regent Street outside the Apple store waiting to get their hands on the latest iPhone the latest major mobile operator, Three, announced that it was following in the footsteps of O2 and Vodafone and introducing caps of 1GB on monthly data use.

This might not seem like a big deal now with most colleagues I mentioned it to shrugging their shoulders and commenting that 1Gb was plenty of data. But things are developing so quickly that give it just a few months and there could well be an whizz-bang application that involves video and sucks your monthly data allowance in just a couple of uses.

The fear that is growing in my mind is that we might be entering an era of not so much the digital have and have-nots but a tiered world where access to the full bells and whistles of the web is restricted only to the minority that can afford it.

So you might be able to afford an iPhone but not the highest data package restricting your ability to join in on the latest must-do craze. or you might have a home network and link up your PC, console, smart phone and iPad and find yourself breaking through the caps set by internet providers because wherever you go data is going to cost and increasingly be capped.

Add to this the tack that the government is taking towards rural broadband and its view that private companies will fill the gap left by scrapping the landline tax and you have a recipe for even more people to become digital disenfranchised.

Of course data has to cost but perhaps what we are starting to be penalised for is the fact that networks and operator infrastructures have not kept up with the growth of web usage and the explosion in streamed audio and video content and their mistakes and inability to invest is now becoming a problem for all of us.

It's 2010 and the web is still developing. Data capping might seem like the answer now but going forward the infrastructure has to improve and the limit of those caps has to start spiraling significantly upwards. Fail to do that and more and more people will be unable to afford the web.

This was first published in June 2010

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