osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Boy Scout Broadband Bellweather

Will hopefully turn this into a larger post, but wanted to jot down before I forgot.

One of the big debates in broadband policy these days is whether we need to extend broadband to rural America and whether we need to worry about broadband adoption. Most of the argument against is based on a PEW survey in which a significant population of non-adopters states as the reason they won't adopt "not worth it."

I did Boy Scout training this weekend. As a preliminary to taking the live all day training, I needed to take three online training modules. At the training, the District Commissioner explained that BSA National was moving all record keeping online, as was Montgomery District and National Capital Area Council. The most recent version of the Boy Scout Manual includes things such as a unit on cyber-bullying in the child protection unit. New merit badges include geo-caching and other requirements that can/must be fulfilled online.

In other words, it is becoming increasingly difficult to participate, as an adult or as a scout, without broadband access. In about 5 years, it will be impossible to participate functionally in the Boy Scouts without some form of broadband access. For BSA, this is a combination of cost savings (it is much cheaper to move training and record keeping online) and recognition that we have reached a tipping point where most, if not all, scouts have broadband access and need to worry about things like cyber-bullying.

We will now see an excellent example of network dynamics and the inverse network effect. The network effect states that the more people connected to the network, the greater the value of being connected to the network for each network participant. But the inverse is true for exclusion. The more everyone else is on a network, the greater the penalty you suffer from being excluded from the network. (By contrast, the marginal value of your inclusion diminishes significantly -- a factor elided over by those who try to make a pure economic argument for connecting the last 5% of the population.)

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