20 votes

Is it ethical for services to exclude those without internet access?

I've been turning the question over in my mind since I read this article the other day. A company that delivers milk and basic groceries is moving to online-only billing and account management - the article quotes various people who are "disgusted" that the company are cutting off their "elderly or vulnerable customers". It's one relatively niche example that raises a much broader question, and the idea of people still living without some form of internet access genuinely caught me by surprise.

The UK has 94.6% internet penetration, relatively low costs (£10/month or less) for basic access, and a variety of subsidised schemes available for people to get basic hardware. That said, there are always gaps for people to fall through, and that last 5% still represents over three million people. At what point does it become reasonable to assume everybody is, or has the opportunity to be, online?

38 comments

  1. [23]
    Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    I would argue that as long as (1) the internet isn't a universal public utility and (2) At least homelessness, but more likely some level of poverty have been abolished, assuming access to...

    I would argue that as long as (1) the internet isn't a universal public utility and (2) At least homelessness, but more likely some level of poverty have been abolished, assuming access to internet or a smartphone will be an assumption of privilege and be a negative. This happened in NYC recently with a push to end physical tickets for public transportation and now only doing tickets through the app. This stops entire groups of people from being able to access your service. I don't want to make this sound simple though. Its easy for me to say this because I am not a business owner or a person who cares about profits. From strictly a business perspective, I can see how much you could lower cost and improve customer experience by going online-only, and I can see the other reasons and benefits. That said, I think society™ has pushed companies to view profit as the most important thing rather than filling openings to make the community/society better, and I'm just never going to jive with that mindset. I am, in almost all cases, going to think it is more important to serve the fringe cases than it is to make more profit, and depending on what that service is I'll feel more or less strongly about it.

    20 votes
    1. [16]
      precise
      Link Parent
      I agree with your two point measure for determining when such an assumption is okay, but I still think it leaves some people out. What about the people that don't want to be on the internet? The...

      I agree with your two point measure for determining when such an assumption is okay, but I still think it leaves some people out. What about the people that don't want to be on the internet? The people who don't want to own a cell phone, or a computer? There are very good reasons for wanting to opt out, and this trend of putting everything on the internet makes it very difficult for people to make choices for themselves. This idea of getting to a point of assuming people have internet access leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I guess I fall into this category, but just because people have access doesn't mean they want it.

      5 votes
      1. [9]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        Honestly, I think irrelevant. It’s basically like asking “what about people who don’t want to use a ticket machine?” There is just a point where you have to realize that it’s part of the price of...

        What about the people that don't want to be on the internet? The people who don't want to own a cell phone, or a computer?

        Honestly, I think irrelevant. It’s basically like asking “what about people who don’t want to use a ticket machine?” There is just a point where you have to realize that it’s part of the price of doing business.

        That being said, I think it’s a huge failure that our governments have not worked to alleviate those burdens from people who are most affected by them. At some point we need to accept that the internet is not something that we can entirely leave to the whims of capitalists.

        15 votes
        1. [5]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          Until we can guarantee that you can use a networked computer without constantly being spied on and having data about you follow you around and be sent to thousands of unknown third parties (most...

          Until we can guarantee that you can use a networked computer without constantly being spied on and having data about you follow you around and be sent to thousands of unknown third parties (most of whom are bad actors), I don't think this is a healthy way to look at the situation.

          I mean if we want to take this to its logical conclusion, why not just require every citizen to be on Facebook and Gmail since they're the largest providers out there and "almost everyone" is already on them?

          7 votes
          1. [4]
            Akir
            Link Parent
            I think that's a bit outside of the scope of this particular arguement. I don't want to get into arguments about spyware, violations of privacy, and companies requiring unfair legal agreements to...

            I think that's a bit outside of the scope of this particular arguement.

            I don't want to get into arguments about spyware, violations of privacy, and companies requiring unfair legal agreements to do business with them, because not only is it an entirely new can of worms that's far different from "I don't want to own a computer", but it's also something that we should all be screaming about to our representatives until they get off their asses and actually fix so we aren't at the whims of large corporations. Because while you talk in hypotheticals about businesses requiring access to Facebook and Google, that's actually happening in the real world right now.

            7 votes
            1. [3]
              precise
              Link Parent
              I don't think it is outside of the scope of this argument. The concepts of spyware, violations of privacy and companies requiring unfair legal agreements are universal and intrinsic to...

              I don't think it is outside of the scope of this argument. The concepts of spyware, violations of privacy and companies requiring unfair legal agreements are universal and intrinsic to participating in this tech focused society. This system you're seemingly forcing onto people is based on the premise of progress first and ask for consumer protections later.

              4 votes
              1. [2]
                Akir
                Link Parent
                You seem to be under the impression that I am cheering for this kind of thing to happen. I assure you, I am not. I'm saying that we need consumer protections now.

                You seem to be under the impression that I am cheering for this kind of thing to happen. I assure you, I am not. I'm saying that we need consumer protections now.

                2 votes
                1. precise
                  Link Parent
                  My impression wasn't that you were cheering for these things to happen, but that you were taking the stance in apathy and shifting blame to politicians who often fail us. I've heard it a lot from...

                  My impression wasn't that you were cheering for these things to happen, but that you were taking the stance in apathy and shifting blame to politicians who often fail us. I've heard it a lot from people who don't even vote, but then blame politicians for all of their problems. This idea stemmed from your original comment regarding the costs of doing business. I felt it implied an acceptance of norms, I believe I was incorrect in assuming that implication.

                  I agree we need consumer protections now, I just don't have faith in politicians to protect us.

                  2 votes
        2. [3]
          precise
          Link Parent
          I don't agree with your notion that it is the price of doing business. Let's take the ticket machine example because I believe it is a false equivalency. In the case of doing business without the...

          I don't agree with your notion that it is the price of doing business. Let's take the ticket machine example because I believe it is a false equivalency. In the case of doing business without the ticket machine, the price is purchasing a phone made by underpaid labor, with non-renewable resources and engineered with planned obsolescence in mind. A phone which will probably end up as a toxic brick in a landfill in a few years. A phone which will track your location for multiple parties, often times these parties you've already paid money to, but they want to double dip. Now compare that with the cost of doing business with the ticket machine. Substantially fewer devices, manufactured for long term use. Possibly made in substandard labor conditions, but the quantity would be dwarfed in comparison to the prior alternative. What is there to truly gain by "modernizing" this system? Maybe some NYC employees got reassigned or let go and that saved some money? Maybe NYC was missing tons of ticket revenue? I'm not sure, but I don't think the municipality would dare compare whatever efficiencies they introduced to the negative externalities of the tech and internet industries.

          As for just accepting this new reality as ours, that's another way of saying you're forcing change onto others and to deal with it. It's ignoring the huge problems that we tend to ignore in the name of convenience, I'm not ok with that. This may be the capitalist vision of the price of doing business, but I refuse to participate.

          4 votes
          1. Akir
            Link Parent
            The things that you are arguing about are not the things that I'm saying. I never said that buying tickets on your phone is the same as buying it from a ticket machine, I'm just saying that you...

            The things that you are arguing about are not the things that I'm saying. I never said that buying tickets on your phone is the same as buying it from a ticket machine, I'm just saying that you have no choice but to do business with service providers except on their terms.

            By no means do I think it's fair; I'm just saying that it's the way the world works right now. I have to pay an additional 55 cents to pay my electric bill with a check via mail, or $1.65 to use my credit card. I don't think it's fair, but if I don't pay one of these fees, I'm responsible for the penalties. That's why I'm advocating for getting the government to solve these problems - it's literally the only course of action available to us.

            5 votes
          2. Micycle_the_Bichael
            Link Parent
            https://www.fastcompany.com/3024544/so-long-metrocard-nyc-subway-cards-will-soon-see-their-last-swipes it is shockingly hard for me to find a good and detailed article on this. I'll search my...

            https://www.fastcompany.com/3024544/so-long-metrocard-nyc-subway-cards-will-soon-see-their-last-swipes

            it is shockingly hard for me to find a good and detailed article on this. I'll search my messages when I get off work to see if I can find any of the ones my friend sent me. The main costs are ticket systems are old, hard to maintain, and the cards have some issues. It is trivial to point out how smartphones have same issues but wearing those glasses with a big nose, mustache and eyebrows. However, it doesn't seem to have mattered because metro cards are being phased out by 2023.

            2 votes
      2. Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        That's a fair point! I agree with you completely. It was something I thought about and debated adding to my comment but decided that pushing for that option was likely to be met with much more...

        That's a fair point! I agree with you completely. It was something I thought about and debated adding to my comment but decided that pushing for that option was likely to be met with much more conflict than what I went with. In my ideal world I would agree with you, and would like to see the real world and our ideas converge more.

        4 votes
      3. [5]
        Greg
        Link Parent
        The idea of simply wanting to opt out is one I hadn't even considered - I tried to keep the main post relatively neutral, but I tend to be incredibly pro-tech, which is why I was interested in...

        The idea of simply wanting to opt out is one I hadn't even considered - I tried to keep the main post relatively neutral, but I tend to be incredibly pro-tech, which is why I was interested in other people's thoughts on this.

        If we assume the basics are covered (infrastructure is a utility, access is subsidised for those who need it), what would your reasons be for opting out entirely? I can totally understand the idea of avoiding certain sites, certain companies, but the idea of cutting oneself of from email, Wikipedia, and all the basic life-admin tools (banking, taxes, bill payments) is totally alien to me.

        Would you see it as society's duty to enable your decision, or the drawbacks of an offline lifestyle as your own burden to bear?

        4 votes
        1. precise
          Link Parent
          We don't necessarily need to politicize this into pro-tech and anti-tech, I'm neither. I take issue with much of what the internet has to offer, but what I truly am is pro-choice. Compared to most...

          We don't necessarily need to politicize this into pro-tech and anti-tech, I'm neither. I take issue with much of what the internet has to offer, but what I truly am is pro-choice. Compared to most people, I have a very different background regarding my experience on the internet. I've spent large swaths of my life in front of screens, as much as 16 hours a day for work and hobbies. I've also spent large swaths of my life disconnected, weeks (sometimes months) on end without internet for work and hobbies as well. My reflections on both experiences have led me to believe that I was happier without the internet, and I see my ability to opt out disappearing everyday.

          That is just my opinion though, and it should not be the basis for the entire premise of opting out of technology. Other digital exiles have their own reasons, many of which I agree with. The desire for privacy, to not feed into a surveillance capitalist economy where "accept", "consent" and "agree" are a legal ploy. The desire to unplug, the all day and night news media cycle, chocked with reactionaries and opinionated talking heads telling you what is "happening" and how to think, trying to evoke emotions. For the environment, the internet overall generates hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. The insistent advertising, telling me what to buy or what to wear, sometimes without even appearing as advertisements. The constant drama, Reddit/Twitter/Facebook/etc. drama absorbing societal attention span like a sponge, diverting from other more important issues. The emotional crutch, social media doesn't mean you aren't alone. The algorithm driven content, driving users into their own sureties under false pretenses. While some of these have non-internet parallels, they are all prevalent on the internet and it should be my choice to opt in or out of them.

          I can totally understand the idea of avoiding certain sites, certain companies...

          I think this is a fallacy perpetuated by businesses for a long time. Why should we the consumer have to determine the ethical standing of every business we engage with, whether it be your local grocer or Facebook? When did this burden to be an "ethical consumer" fall on us? Why are we not demanding these companies be ethical producers? We are often told to vote with our wallets, but why the hell are we in a position where we have to take such direct action to stop these companies from violating basic human rights? That burden should not fall on us, and it applies to selective internet usage as well.

          ...but the idea of cutting oneself of from email, Wikipedia, and all the basic life-admin tools (banking, taxes, bill payments) is totally alien to me.

          These are all good things to an extent, as I said I take issue with much of what the internet has to offer but not all of it. My opinions aside, these utilities existed in some form or another pre-internet. E-mail is mail, I still write letters to friends personally. Wikipedia is the library. Banking, taxes and bill payments used to be (and still are) conducted at physical locations, by phone or by mail. Does the internet make things easier? Yes. Faster? Yes. Is the convenience worth all of the internet based maladies I've described? Maybe, it's up to you. Is your convenience worth forcing other people into this broken system? No.

          Would you see it as society's duty to enable your decision, or the drawbacks of an offline lifestyle as your own burden to bear?

          I think it would be a mix of both. I have to acknowledge that there will always be an element of society constantly looking to progress no matter the cost. It's this mantra in capitalism that you've always got to be better than the next person, sometimes it creates good things and sometimes it doesn't, but I can't ignore it. Progress does not mean we abandon the past though. When I think of accessibility for the offline lifestyle, I worry about things like internet based voting, medical providers that exclusively use internet portals for medical records and billing, mandatory (or quasi-mandatory) COVID-19 vaccination card phone apps, and other very important aspects of everyday life that are being funneled into an exclusive internet machine. These are inventions in the name of convenience, with no room for opting out. Even some of the basic life administration utilities you listed are becoming online only, banking for instance. It is my belief that these very important utilities and services be accessible offline as well as on.

          What gets deemed to be of critical importance is a huge open ended question. The idea of a service from which the public benefits is very different from a public service. As long as capital and business controls the definition of what a public service is, those services that are beneficial and often required in a society will never be classified as a public service. Until this prerequisite definition is crafted, I don't think we will be able to answer the question of where do be draw the line on reasonable accommodation. I don't believe that society should always bear these burdens, but I also posit that many of these burdens are imaginary and somehow the internet has come to represent society.

          8 votes
        2. [2]
          vord
          Link Parent
          I would say that one problem with modern day society is that there's no easy way to opt-out of, well, almost anything. I myself mostly like the internet. But I also hate mobile phones and the...

          I would say that one problem with modern day society is that there's no easy way to opt-out of, well, almost anything.

          I myself mostly like the internet. But I also hate mobile phones and the surviellance network that has been embedded in it. So I also like cash and the ability to do whatever I want with it.

          Is it too much to ask for some privacy and not be treated like a raving lunatic in doing so?

          6 votes
          1. Micycle_the_Bichael
            Link Parent
            If people could stop looking at me like I grew 3 heads when I pay for things in cash that would be super cool.

            If people could stop looking at me like I grew 3 heads when I pay for things in cash that would be super cool.

            3 votes
        3. joplin
          Link Parent
          Well that's the problem, though. When your government is actively feeding data about you to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and who knows who else, it's a complete non-starter to even discuss it as an...

          I can totally understand the idea of avoiding certain sites, certain companies

          Well that's the problem, though. When your government is actively feeding data about you to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and who knows who else, it's a complete non-starter to even discuss it as an option. I'm pretty sure most of the government web sites in my state use Google analytics, for example.

          1 vote
    2. [3]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      And how are people who have phones purchased in other countries (because they're visitors) supposed to download an app that probably isn't in their country's app store, and probably isn't in their...

      This happened in NYC recently with a push to end physical tickets for public transportation and now only doing tickets through the app.

      And how are people who have phones purchased in other countries (because they're visitors) supposed to download an app that probably isn't in their country's app store, and probably isn't in their language? Even if they have a smart phone, it doesn't mean they can use your app (or web page, or whatever).

      3 votes
      1. pallas
        Link Parent
        The hope here would be that the app would be generally available, and not restricted by region. This the case, for example, for Transport for London, and though I don't live in the UK, I have...

        And how are people who have phones purchased in other countries (because they're visitors) supposed to download an app that probably isn't in their country's app store, and probably isn't in their language?

        The hope here would be that the app would be generally available, and not restricted by region. This the case, for example, for Transport for London, and though I don't live in the UK, I have never had any problem using my phone for ticketing there (as a result of Covid I have not, however, been to London since Brexit).

        As for language, this is a difficulty that exists for public transport generally. Signs, ticket machines, tickets, announcements, and so on all must make choices of language, and will often be problematic for visitors, particularly in situations where they are unfamiliar with not just the language but also the characters themselves. Phone-based systems, if implemented well, may actually have the possibility of being an improvement here, as they can more easily be adapted to language the user can understand. (In practice, this is often implemented poorly; I'm reminded, for example, of the trend of tech companies to assume all users were monolingual and thus auto-translate or filter everything by interface language, making everything infuriatingly unreadable and making it difficult to see things in languages the user might be able to understand perfectly well.)

        3 votes
      2. Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        MORE GREAT QUESTIONS FOR THE MTA! HOLY SHIT ITS ALMOST LIKE THIS WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA. WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING (other than all the activists who were saying all these things and then got...

        MORE GREAT QUESTIONS FOR THE MTA! HOLY SHIT ITS ALMOST LIKE THIS WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA. WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING (other than all the activists who were saying all these things and then got ignored but I'm sure it'll be fine.)???????

        Edit: Clarification, I came in with a lot of energy and want to be clear none of it is at you. I'm just really frustrated with this whole situation because its just so obviously fucking stupid. The negative energy is at this plan and this plan alone.

        4 votes
    3. [2]
      Greg
      Link Parent
      I was vaguely wondering about the idea of some kind of centralised "call center for the internet" service, maybe government run, that could remove the need for every organisation to maintain an...

      I was vaguely wondering about the idea of some kind of centralised "call center for the internet" service, maybe government run, that could remove the need for every organisation to maintain an individual offline presence: allow those who can't get access for whatever reason to just call up and have someone do the task on their behalf.

      The ticketing issue throws a spanner in the works there because it's not just about achieving the task, it's about having the device with you as well (if I'm understanding correctly?).

      1 vote
      1. Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        I will come back and address the "call center for the internet" part after I have had more time to think on it. No you're understanding correctly. As of the last time I checked (though its been a...

        I will come back and address the "call center for the internet" part after I have had more time to think on it.

        The ticketing issue throws a spanner in the works there because it's not just about achieving the task, it's about having the device with you as well (if I'm understanding correctly?).

        No you're understanding correctly. As of the last time I checked (though its been a while, the pandemic of it all has made it harder for me to care about the legislation being passed in a different city and state, and one I don't plan to live in so maybe there is new info) there was not answers to what happens with:

        • People who don't have smart phones.
        • People who lose their phones
        • People whose phone dies
        • Broken phone screens causing reader issues
        • How MTA employees can override the apps if there is an issue
        • Network issues (what do I do if the app won't load to let me buy/use my pass?)
        • Bugs in the software. Not that the US has issues with maintaining up-to-date, functional, and secure technologies, that would be a ludicrous claim for me to make.

        Along with a myriad of other issues that I can't remember off the top of my dome.

        6 votes
    4. Tardigrade
      Link Parent
      I agree with point two in the general case but for some services (like the one in the article mentioned) that require a home to use it's less relevant. I'd also say for the article service, a...

      I agree with point two in the general case but for some services (like the one in the article mentioned) that require a home to use it's less relevant. I'd also say for the article service, a premium product milk delivery, if you're in a house and can affort nicer milk delivered to your door you can probably afford internet access in some form.

  2. DrStone
    Link
    The Pew Research Center published this article a few days ago that seems relevant 7% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?. They link to their methodology. Looking at the breakdown...

    The Pew Research Center published this article a few days ago that seems relevant
    7% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?. They link to their methodology. Looking at the breakdown that they do offer, the biggest concern is 25% of 65yr+ adults say they don't use the internet. There's also a sizable 14% chunk for the lowest income and education buckets. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to go into the reasons behind why people "say they do not use the internet" (choice, access, disability, etc.).

    9 votes
  3. [2]
    Weldawadyathink
    Link
    Why does a company excluding a customer base have anything to do with ethics? That is, assuming we aren’t talking about exclusion based on race/gender/etc. This seems roughly analogous to a...

    Why does a company excluding a customer base have anything to do with ethics? That is, assuming we aren’t talking about exclusion based on race/gender/etc. This seems roughly analogous to a storefront opening in a city with poor public transportation, and then claiming it is unethically excluding people who don’t have a car.

    On top of that, the costs to support non-online billing are almost certainly higher than online billing. How much extra should the company spend to support a small number of customers? What if the costs to support those people mean that they have to provide the service at a loss?

    7 votes
    1. precise
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think a distinction between access to public and private services is in order, but private services don't necessarily preclude the need for public access. Take food deserts for example. I think...

      I think a distinction between access to public and private services is in order, but private services don't necessarily preclude the need for public access. Take food deserts for example. I think we'd both agree that easy access to a grocer is important, even if it's not a public service. Regarding an exclusionary basis, access to services is very much tied to financial standing. The article in @Greg's post also specifically points out that elderly individuals also don't have access to the internet, either by choice or lack of knowledge. If this second issue amounts to discrimination is a question of ethics.

      A business is not absolved of any and all social responsibilities in the name profit. Especially when, as the article points out, this company signed up 175,000 thousand customers over the past two years. I'd posit that if a small subsection of customers are causing that much financial distress for this large of a service, that it is not the customers but the management who are to blame. Another much more likely scenario is that the business is trimming fat and people are being left out in the cold because of it.

      This may seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill, but I think it is very representative of conversations that need to be had across a wide swath of society regarding internet access.

      11 votes
  4. Flashynuff
    Link
    The short answer is that it would be reasonable to assume only if all of the things you'd require to access the service -- electricity, internet, the device to use, training on how to use it, and...

    At what point does it become reasonable to assume everybody is, or has the opportunity to be, online?

    The short answer is that it would be reasonable to assume only if all of the things you'd require to access the service -- electricity, internet, the device to use, training on how to use it, and so on -- are provided without charge to those wishing to use the service. That isn't the case in any country that I know of (even the UK has 3 million people in that gap as you mentioned), and so it's usually not reasonable to assume everyone is online.

    Of course, even if you can't assume that everyone is online, you can make some assumptions about the type of person that a service is for, whether they are likely to fall into that gap, and what would happen if they were unable to access that service. It's clear from the article that the grocery delivery service is often used by people without internet access, and that since it is delivering groceries, losing access to the service would mean losing access to food.

    I understand the desire to streamline and cut administrative costs, but it comes at the cost of harming people who are already vulnerable. At a certain point someone in the company decided that harm was acceptable. I think that was a wrong and unethical decision.

    6 votes
  5. [3]
    nukeman
    Link
    We could look at a related analogy from the past - at what point did it become acceptable to require a telephone number to use a service? 1940? 1960? 1980?

    We could look at a related analogy from the past - at what point did it become acceptable to require a telephone number to use a service? 1940? 1960? 1980?

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Micycle_the_Bichael
      Link Parent
      Based on what I’m reading in this, I would say earliest 1980s, more likely early 90s? It’s hard to say with how quick tech advancement was/is.

      Based on what I’m reading in this, I would say earliest 1980s, more likely early 90s? It’s hard to say with how quick tech advancement was/is.

      3 votes
      1. nukeman
        Link Parent
        Ultimately, I suspect most people (especially outside Tildes) would’ve said the late 1960s. By that point, automatic long distance service was common between cities.

        Ultimately, I suspect most people (especially outside Tildes) would’ve said the late 1960s. By that point, automatic long distance service was common between cities.

        5 votes
  6. eladnarra
    Link
    I'd say in this case it's definitely not ethical - disabled and elderly people use food delivery services to avoid exposure to COVID, and before this pandemic many of them used delivery services...

    I'd say in this case it's definitely not ethical - disabled and elderly people use food delivery services to avoid exposure to COVID, and before this pandemic many of them used delivery services because they can't get to the shops. (And switching to another service is potentially as disruptive as trying to get a new online account, so "use another service which might also be online" isn't a great solution.)

    Obviously this change is an issue for people who don't have internet access, but it could also be an issue for certain disabled folks. Out of curiosity, I went and took a look at the Milk & More website. I'm still new to web development and accessibility, but it doesn't pass several of the automated tests I know of (which can generally only flag a small percentage of issues). The main problem is color contrast, but there are other issues such as carousels on the home page and item pages which are constantly animated with no pause button.

    I also checked out their description of how to switch over to the new online account system, and it seems like the process could be confusing for some people. (You have to recreate your already existing order in the new system. But don't accidentally stop your direct deposit too soon! Your bills won't get moved over, so you have to pay your last bill the old way.) They've provided a lot of guidance on how to do all of this, but it's still an added burden if you're a current customer who already had everything set up. (And while I don't yet know anything about PDF accessibility, I'm a little skeptical that their instructions are accessible, since the tabbing order on the first page seems to go from step 2 to step 4 to step 3.)

    5 votes
  7. knocklessmonster
    Link
    If there is a potential lack of access that is not by choice, I'd say it is unethical. I'd extend that to people falling through the cracks of a system. If you can think of the situation, there is...

    If there is a potential lack of access that is not by choice, I'd say it is unethical. I'd extend that to people falling through the cracks of a system. If you can think of the situation, there is a responsibility to cover it.

    The distinction I'd make is if you chose to go without internet or a cellular phone, you have the responsibility, as one who has chosen to go against established norms, to make it work. An ethical system would be one which accounts for and prepares for those who fell through the cracks, also benefits the person who has chosen to opt out of internet, cell service, whatever. It's sort of a twist on the free rider problem: Those who choose a lifestyle are absolved of some responsibility by decisions made to protect those who can not attain this norm.

    As far as solving these problems? I don't know what to do exactly. A major part of it comes from public utilities (transit, postal) having/choosing to operate like private companies. My local bus agency cuts "unprofitable" routes that lead to the bus being more difficult to use, which cuts ridership, which cuts profits, rinse, repeat. The first thing would be to treat these organizations as non-profits, or even as infinitely funded, and figure out how to fund them (fees, missing taxes, etc). This extends to the provision of phone and internet services: Provide a system that doesn't require a market to sustain itself, but rather as a nationalized care program.

    4 votes
  8. [4]
    Thra11
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm not sure this is correct. Broadband is often advertised by ISPs at such prices, but that ignores the fact that you need to rent a phone line to use it on, which typically costs between £10 &...

    relatively low costs (£10/month or less) for basic access

    I'm not sure this is correct. Broadband is often advertised by ISPs at such prices, but that ignores the fact that you need to rent a phone line to use it on, which typically costs between £10 & £20.

    I guess if you happen to live in an area with reasonable mobile signal coverage, you could just use mobile data for about £6 per month, but outside city centres, you can't guarantee you'll have mobile signal.

    (Doesn't really affect your point, I'm just quibbling over exact figures)

    3 votes
    1. Micycle_the_Bichael
      Link Parent
      I would say it isn't really a quibble. The prices for many are negligible, but not for everyone. There was a period in time where my partner was living with a $0 bank account and often times...

      I would say it isn't really a quibble. The prices for many are negligible, but not for everyone. There was a period in time where my partner was living with a $0 bank account and often times needed food banks or me to venmo them money because their job didn't pay enough to cover rent in a low-cost area, a public transit pass to get to work, a pay-as-you-go phone, and food. No internet, no netflix, just necessary bills to stay alive. That $10 for internet access would not have been possible, and the more things you need for that small bill (like a landline) just makes it more and more inaccessible.

      3 votes
    2. [2]
      Greg
      Link Parent
      I was going on the basis of the major mobile networks all quoting near-100% coverage of the population (as distinct from the land area) for 4G. Speeds may not be amazing, but my assumption was...

      I was going on the basis of the major mobile networks all quoting near-100% coverage of the population (as distinct from the land area) for 4G. Speeds may not be amazing, but my assumption was they'd be enough for the basic necessities: banking, messaging, form-filling, etc.

      I actually intended the £10 number as a bit of a hedge: as you say, you can go as low as £6, but I specifically wanted to avoid over-promising and skewing the issue!

      If for any reason someone can't get a reliable mobile signal at all, and can't share WiFi with a neighbour, the lowest cost fixed-line option is a BT low-income package for £10.07 (including line rental). It's sadly a poor value for money plan, but in absolute terms it will get you online for a manageable cost.

      3 votes
      1. Thra11
        Link Parent
        I suspect they are using a simple coverage metric of whether the 'population' (residential buildings, presumably) are within a certain radius of a mobile phone mast, ignoring topography and other...

        I was going on the basis of the major mobile networks all quoting near-100% coverage of the population (as distinct from the land area) for 4G.

        I suspect they are using a simple coverage metric of whether the 'population' (residential buildings, presumably) are within a certain radius of a mobile phone mast, ignoring topography and other problems. opensignal.com used to have a crowd-sourced map on their website which showed the actual coverage, but it looks like they only provide it as an app now.

  9. ImmobileVoyager
    Link
    Nonwithstanding the internet, we should take a look at the ethics and legality of a private company setting conditions on the services it provides. To remain in the field of groceries, a...

    Nonwithstanding the internet, we should take a look at the ethics and legality of a private company setting conditions on the services it provides. To remain in the field of groceries, a comparison that jumps to my mind is how most supermarkets are unusable without a private automobile.

    Now, it's not only about the internet in general, but more and more often businesses take for granted the ownership of a smartphone.

    Anyway, as the WWW is nearing its 30th birthday, and 25th year in revenue service, it is indeed more urgent than ever to reflect on the ethics of it all and to look back at what it has done to society. And it's not just about grocery shopping.

    3 votes
  10. Gaywallet
    Link
    I believe this is a situation in which moving to an opt-out system is perhaps the best way of doing things. That is to say, set up your system so that online billing is automatically opted in for...

    I believe this is a situation in which moving to an opt-out system is perhaps the best way of doing things. That is to say, set up your system so that online billing is automatically opted in for all new users, but allow them the ability to opt-out if they do not wish to participate. For existing users there's a variety of ways to slowly move them towards default opting-in such as giving them a time period to opt-out otherwise being automatically opted in, or you could slowly manually convert accounts or use other incentives to get them to change. Obviously, the opt-out functionality cannot exist solely on the internet as that is potentially excluding people with no access.

    While it is reasonable to assume that most people can find free access to the internet through libraries and such, whether someone wishes to and whether there are policies in place which exclude vulnerable populations such as the homeless from receiving access to these systems needs to be evaluated on a place to place basis. For a local city to choose internet only might be fine so long as they ensure there's a way for people without internet access to get internet access (although I might suggest they employ at least one person to help for people who are simply never going to transition to the internet or need significant education to do so), but when you start operating at scale it's impossible to know whether every town and city that can use your service actually has equal access.

    1 vote