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Claudia Ricci

Claudia Ricci

Posted March 4, 2009 | 02:38 PM (EST)

Where do poor people go to read the Huff Po?

Chances are, if you are reading this blog post, you are sitting in a comfortable office somewhere. Or maybe you are at your kitchen table, or on the sofa, or in bed, or at your desk. In other words, you are wired up at home.

The point is, you are probably NOT doing what Washington DC mom Judith Theodore and her kids have to do: race between public libraries trying to get access to the Internet.

In an article over the weekend, Washington Post reporter Cecilia King highlighted the plight of inner city people like Theodore, people who don't have ready access to the information superhighway.

According to the U.S. Census bureau, a whopping 41 percent of homes in DC do not have dial-up or broadband Internet service. Just think of what that means!!

Think about how truly disadvantaged the children are in those homes: they aren't toting their Macbooks under their arms, like my own teens did, doing research for classes at the touch of a few buttons. They aren't on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace, learning to become web-savvy at home.

And think about all the elderly people in those inner city homes: they aren't like my 82-year old Dad, who stays connected via email, avoiding the isolation that often afflicts older people.

President Obama's stimulus bill contanins $7.2 billion to bring the Internet to rural homes in the U.S. But there is nothing like that in the bill for wiring up urban America.

What are we as a nation doing when we are zooming ahead as a blogger-rich democracy, depending increasingly on the Internet for work and just about every other function, but leaving a whole segment of our society out of the picture?

"The Internet is becoming as important as electricity and gas," Theodore told the Post. Jobless, Theodore cannot afford a computer. Nor can she afford a hook-up to Comcast for Internet service. "I feel like everyone is driving on this fast road and I'm a little car with just three wheels, sometimes just two and a half," she said.

Her son, Steven, 11, had a report to do last month, researching web sites for a paper on Chad. When the library's computer network went kaput, he had to stop his work. He received a failing grade.

Which made me think: we as a nation also deserve a failing grade -- if we can't figure out a way to get people in the cities wired up.