How Much is Internet Access Worth to You?

Less than three years ago poll results showed that 84% of young Germans, those between the ages of 19-29, would rather exist without their life-partner than their internet connection. How would you answer that question? Remember, your significant other may be standing right behind you.

Internet access has different meanings for different people. For the casual user, apparently a dying breed, loss or interruption of service isn’t that big a deal, but for many businesses and government agencies a computer system crash can be disastrous. Over the years there have been some famous computer viruses which have wreaked major economic havoc. The MyDoom worm of 2004 caused an estimated 38.5 billion dollars of financial damage, and the famous Love Bug virus of 2000 was responsible for some $15 million in damages.

There are other ways to measure the personal value of an internet connection than mere dollars and cents. Your garden-variety neighborhood video poker addict may or may not regard his service as highly as the angst-filled teenager who spends 14 hours-per-day on Facebook and Twitter, but try telling that to either one.

Factoid: the country of Turkmenistan may lead the league in internet access valuation, as an unlimited use plan in that country can easily run up to $7,000/month!

For many entrepreneurs internet connectivity is vital to both business and personal life, as the two are often intertwined to the point where one is indistinguishable from another. Businesses utilize social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to personalize and promote their operations, and this has changed the way we view word-of-mouth advertising.

Politicians have not shied from computer limelight, and now all those internet “tubes” are as full of political ads as other mainstream media. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, has a Twitter account.

The ubiquitous nature of the internet has also changed the way we perceive value, because now everyone expects it to be there, much the way baby boomers grew up with the expectation of having a television, and before WWII people expected access to radio. We take the web for granted, placing conscious value on it only when it isn’t available, as during crashes or power outages.

Developing countries have increasing appetites for internet service, but technological infrastructure is expensive, even more so in remote areas. This explains why internet service is so limited and so expensive in some parts of the world. In Malawi, for instance, internet service is so dear that less than 2% of the population is online. The monthly cost for service is more than 2,000% higher than the average monthly income.

Grisly examples of internet value reach us every day from war torn countries around the globe. Mainstream media have been shut down but the world has been kept up-to-date via internet cell-phone technology. Networks have had to rely on stringers with phone-cams for video coverage. For partisans trying to let the world know of their plight, the worth is almost incalculable. To governments attempting to quell rebellion, denial of news coverage can be a key to maintaining power.

Each individual has to make the decision about how much a part of life the internet needs to be, and that may be the final value.

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