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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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August 7, 2008 8:34 AM

Connectivity Bad For Business?

In talking about broadband specifically and connectivity more generally, there's often the assumption that more is better. That businesses in particular can not survive without it in the 21st century. That if only we had more and used more, businesses would be more efficient, more effective, and more profitable. But in talking yesteday with David Olson, cable director for Portland, I learned that this isn't always the case.

He recounted to me how last week he was on a fishing trip with family up to a remote area of Vancouver Island, far enough removed that it took a full day and multiple modes of transport to get to the final destination.

He then shared the anecdote he heard while up there of a local community having the opportunity to vote for spreading wireless connectivity across the area but ultimately voting against becoming more connected.

The reason why? The business community convinced people it would be a bad idea for tourists to be able to connect back to the real world.

The reason for this? Because once people are connected the odds that their trips will be cut short by happenings back home increase dramatically.

Whether based on anecdotes, hard facts, or a gut feeling, the local economy of outfitters, boat operators, campgrounds, and more were, and likely still are, convinced that by improving their connectivity it would be bad for business as the less time tourists spend in the area the less they're spending on local goods and services.

What's fascinating about this story isn't so much that an area voted against better connectivity; in the case of municipal broadband efforts that happens with some regularity. What's interesting is that these people seem to have a legitimate reason for believing better connectivity is bad for business.

What this highlights, as David pointed out, is that despite the many wonders of our highly interconnected world, that there is still a place for providing the opportunity to unplug the fiber running directly to our brains and disconnect from the rest of the real world.

What sparked this whole conversation was my sarcastically asking what the connectivity was like up there in the woods, fully expecting him to lament its inadequacy.

Instead he seemed like he hadn't even considered that lack of connectivity as any sort of a negative, but instead he welcomed the opportunity to get away from it all, if even for just the week or two of a trip.

And you know what? While sometimes it feels like not being able to get online is the end of the world, I'm starting to purposefully set aside the Internet in my own life. It can be really nice to go into a weekend not thinking about checking your email and looking up the latest news but instead focusing all of your attention on just being, on enjoying life, on appreciating the company of loved ones.

So though I may be one of the biggest advocates for ubiquitous connectivity, it's important we all remember that just because broadband's a good thing, that doesn't mean it will ever be universally accepted. Because sometimes people just want to get away from it all, and for the industries built up around those experiences, sometimes being more connected is not necessarily a good thing.

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Comments (1)

I've seen this in action. Traveling with friends to amazing places, only to have them catch an early flight home because of something they read in email. And, of course, having online access to easily change their flight.

Posted by Ed Kohler on August 7, 2008 12:26 PM

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