Un-Un-Cat, Episode 23. — Heal the Digital Divide for the Humans. Cat versus Dog way of thinking.
President Green felt overwhelmed a lot with all the many directions requiring her attention as POTUS. America, as 1/5th of the world and the 3rd largest population, and the number one devourer of all the world’s resources and products — self-described as the number 1 economy in the world. She was very aware that she was in a one in 7-billion rare position to make a significant shift for the better towards saving the world.
President Green the Cat-person had an action plan mapped out to save the Earth that was extracted from over a million words written honestly by a Dog. A Dog-person from a galaxy far-far-away, but still, from Earth or not, these were words written with a sincere love for humans like only a Dog-person can emote. (See the previous 22 episodes of this story is you don’t know what I’m talking about). U.G. knew she had to be very careful with the humans. Because she was not as nice as any dog, but, as a Cat-person she also possessed concepts and a perspective on the fragility of life many humans seemed to completely lack.
If you have a job that realistically will take a thousand years to do well, and only have four years as President of the United States to take a crack at it. Who do you call? You don’t call on ghosts or those who bust them. You call the top nerds in the country and pick one to reestablish the Office of Technology Assessment, a position that for some reason only lasted from 1972 to 1995? And of course as Commander and Chief you call on the US Military, way before inauguration day.
The US Military and the top geeks in the US working together to heal the digital divide in the US? Really? Yes. Really. They built the internet in the US, to begin with, they will lead the army it will take to build the new internet, and dig the trenches to fight this information/climate change war. Yes, I said war.
This wasn’t a ‘war on drugs’ or a metaphorical war by any other name, this was an actual war on climate change and pollution. Make no mistake, this war, is horrible as most any war where the innocent suffer worst. Women and children and those fortunate enough to be elderly suffer and die along with all the small things in the land that few weep for. Have a 6th of our planet’s forests burnt yet? Is a great army marching from the North? Can we agree to melt our weapons into plow shears? Is 10% of the Earth’s fresh water still there where the North Pole was or has it melted into the salt of the sea already? Is there still hope for planet Earth? Only time will tell. And if we are going to succeed in postponing the inevitable apocalypse any dog or cat sentient or not would agree, it’s going to take all the humans working together to do it.
Therefore the first point to attack against climate change is to heal the digital divide to bring everyone into the conversation. And how we connect everyone to the conversation matters very much. Capitalism has failed us all. The give-the-people-what-they-want approach, with a goal of profit, results in profit being valued more than life on Earth.
Government holding the reins as in communism has proven to be worse and also failed, multiple times. A precarious balance of government for the people by the people must be maintained. A dynamic market to innovate and a people controlled government to keep the market balanced between regulated and free.
Back home in her snug cabin in the beautiful rocky hill country of Idaho with her best friend, the conversation between Dog and Cat had been easy. In Lee’s mind, (Lee is what her Dog friend called himself while on Earth). Lee imagined healing the digital divide required three major components. 1. Text and black & white images only like a newspaper. 2. Public streaming channels. And 3. communication channels for meetings, forums, letters, etc…
And all three branches owned by the people, a free-internet. Able to be compact secure low-bandwidth and able to shut off and back-up data in multiple overlapping locations in the US, archived to survive solar flares, EMPs, power surges/outages, and hacking.
For the text-only channel, a universal standard of energy and code efficient text communication that is plain text therefore easily encryptable for voting and secure communications and low bandwidth to easily lock off undamaged by power fluctuations, EMPS, and solar flares. (Yes I repeated that because if we don’t fix it, everything we do online is just one solar flare away from being lost).
Lee liked LaTeX (pronounced La T E Kia, not like latex) because it could easily accommodate the formatting of math, science and every character of text on planet Earth, Chinese to ancient Egyptian. Fluid searchable content, with linked sources. Footnote resources and instructor specific header. Reader adjusts brightness and scale.
So, President Green proposed a standard. Universal-Standard-text or USTeX, and got some cross-eyed stares from her staff until she found the right nerd who understood what she meant. Because, believe it out not this formatting standard, able to handle all the text in the world efficiently is out there, coded in multiple places for decades now, waiting for the world to implement it.
Then President-Elect U.R. Green’s first choice to take on the newly reinvented cabinet position of The Secretary of Technology Assessment, was a man famous for his grumpy rants, whom every programmer in the world who had ever installed open source software knew by name. No one expected the Finnish immigrant to agree to a meeting, much less take the job. But, who can say no to a 150 pound talking Cat who just won the 2020 election by a landslide?
Lee the Dog’s second major component to healing the digital divide was quite insightful for a creature who didn’t live to hear podcasts. To repair the void left by local newspapers and oddly enough local phone directories. Lee thought advertising on TV, the radio and the internet was evil and praised public broadcasting. He thought everyone should have access to all the news and shows on streaming channels in chronological order from most recent to oldest organized by subject.
President Green asked the nerds to define a Universal Standard for public audio and video programs. Leave the high def to the corporations, but it should be good enough quality to watch with most smartphones or project on a wall or on a screen in a classroom.
Four public channels of radio and video to be broadcast wirelessly available to all Americans; news, sports, education, and government. Not one commercial channel, owned by a few wealthy broadcast stations, but a publicly owned digital page people could log into locally to select any of the local news, local sports, education opportunities for all types of life-long learning, and all that was happening in local government. Of course, if people got bored or were from a very small town where not much was happening they could zoom out on the map to state news and state government going-ons, or go to any page they were interested in including the national news stations.
The third part of the three-part plan was communication. The status quo of a social networking site that originated from a college ‘hot or not’ app that President Green referred to under her breath as F-Butt and a text chat app where people “yelled” at each other in ALL CAPS!!! and a video app overwhelmed by memes, stealing of proprietary content and porn was not even close to cutting it as relates to much needed communication to save the world. She would leave those as-is in the commercial paid by the month old internet.
The new public communication networks would take time, beta testing and revising. But, they would figure out something better for the free-by-the-people, for-the-people-internet. They had to; the world was waiting, it was time.
The last major hurdle to the digital divide was, of course, the hardware. Laptop computers had been coming down in price somewhat, but were still out of reach for many Americans. But, the majority owned smart-phones. President Green was very disturbed by e-waste and the craze of the techno-fad inclined to throw out a perfectly-good, year-old-phone, for the latest-and-greatest, that lately, wasn’t that much greater than their smart-phone from a year before.
She had been using a very energy efficient black & white tablet and stylus for her text writing and reading for years. Part of her plan was being implemented by the US Secretary of Education. She was aware that children in school did better when they were not distracted by videos and texting each other on smartphones. They also do better when taking handwritten notes rather than typing. So, instead of a still expensive laptop computer, she thought every child in school should have a text reading and writing tablet with a stylus for their school books, note taking and assignments. Smartphones turned off and kept out of hands while in class.
Healing the digital divide to give everyone a chance to join in the conversation is easy to state as a concept, but how we do this matters because capitalism run rampant has proven to be an environmental virus worse than a forest fire.
President Green felt the irony of the words ‘cat-walk’ as she precariously walked the metaphorical fence between Congress and big corporate money. She would and did tell Congress what she wanted to do to heal the digital divide across the entire nation, submitted to both houses on day two with a budget range for each action item and because of her years served as both a local state representative and in D.C. she knew how long it would take for them to get back to her. For this reason, she had worked with nonprofit conservation and private gardening organizations to roll out the native plant “movement” planning all and having the funding secured before day one.
Similarly, President Green’s three-part plan to heal the digital divide was going to start quickly, rather than wait for Congress, by utilizing a public transparent non-profit funded by any and all corporations who wished to participate in the new internet. There was some funding left behind by the previous administration’s failure to install commercial broadband in some communities still completely lacking in any internet connection. She picked up where they had left off, installing the two independent new internet systems, replacing old phone lines with new efficient optical cables. The funding left behind wasn’t going to go very far. But, it was a good test area, or rather three areas to test out the new USTeX and new over-the-air US-Wifi systems.
They would start with the areas with the worst internet coverage and the worst schools first for the hardware testing and connect education centers and proximity to military bases in Montana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Montana and Alaska would be the long-range coverage tests. Arkansas and Florida would be testing local news channels. The best tech schools Eastcoast to Westcoast would be testing the communication networks and software. President Green was confident they would make enough headway to impress the tech corporations enough to make sure they would not want to miss out and participate and fund the gap while Congress got their heads out of their asses and washed their hair enough to pass some bills and maybe a provisionary chunk or two of the required budgets.
If we are going to save the planet, everybody needs to work together, and to work together we need a free internet, not owned by any corporation, but owned by the people, for the people. Divided for security and working united at the same time. Compact enough to be protected from SPAM and those with malicious intent. To have such an information highway, it can’t be owned by anyone, it has to be owned by everyone. The military is the best contractor for the scale of the job, President Green hoped she would make Benjamin Franklin proud. What a crazy-good man the nations first postmaster was; vile in all the best ways. It was going to be very interesting times.