Since the early and mid-90s when the Clinton administration touted the benefits of the 'Information Superhighway'--and further back in MUD communities and speculative fiction—local access to high-speed Internet infrastructure has been promoted as a socioeconomic panacea by the telecommunications industry, educational administrators, and politicians at multiple levels of the US government. Something that could wipe away race- and class-based inequalities with World Wide Web-based upward mobility. Just this year, President Obama's touted in his State of the Union address a plan to bring high-speed Internet to 98% of Americans, funded by wireless spectrum auction. Within this rhetoric, Internet 'haves' are figured to be more active and upwardly mobile citizens plugged into globalized economic opportunities, the latest and most desirable educational training, and meaningful cultural and political conversations. Internet 'have-nots' are left behind in all these arenas. Deconstructing this binary shows the cultural and historic discourses animating 'access' rhetoric and the complex power relations which 'have' and 'have-not' binaries obscure. As demonstrated by Lisa Nakamura and others, the historical development of the World Wide Web since the early 90s occurred amidst a perfect storm of early-adopter cyber utopianism and economic and cultural neoliberalism. These more recent developments build on discourses inherent to post-WWII information theories which disavow the material embodiment of information; and an even longer tradition of Liberalism where the ideal subject-citizen is freed from structural and material constraint.
Recognizing these roots is the first step towards deconstructing 'access' rhetoric, revealing who most profits from the maintenance of a 'have and 'have-not' binary and why that powerful rhetoric persists. Then we can begin to see some of the more complex, actually-existing power relations obscured by such a binary: the over-representation of Latinos and African-Americans (especially youths) on the mobile Internet, the intersections of skilled Internet use with mental and physical disabilities, and the successes and failures of high-speed Internet rollout plans in different urban and rural communities. This shifting geography requires researchers and activists to recognize the always-linked material conditions and informational potentialities of any Internet infrastructure project; policing the separation of material and informational allows dangerous modes of 21st century upward redistribution to continue. Scholar-activists such as Lisa Duggan call for modern activists to always link cultural and economic causes; I want to conclude by suggesting a frame of 'informational politics' which link informational representations and technologies with material conditions and responses in order to advance social justice in multiple spaces. These politics are a research program and an activist manifesto, linking legislation with platform and infrastructure and experience with code and critique. These politics do not consider as separate the fight for Net Neutrality and the fight for improved urban education, for example. This is a model of coinvolved resistance gestured towards by Andrea Smith and others, recognizing that the experience of culture, politics, and economics has been fundamentally changed by the everyday use of specific information technologies—most prominently the Internet and the personal computer.