Internet Service Disparity is an Enemy of the Real Estate Industry
The statistics are out, and the news for many housing consumers isn't good. Nearly half of America's least-affluent households still lack access to internet service at home, according to the Washington Post. The same article goes on to report that age, education and income are all factors which influence and magnify the disparity between households with internet service and those without. Householders without a college degree are also far less likely to own a computer or have internet accesss in their home.
There is a direct (and disturbing) correlation between poor internet connection speeds and lower average household incomes. To put it bluntly, broadband service in states with lower than average incomes is a disgrace.
What does all this mean to the Realtor community?
Every day, Realtors are bombarded with the news that print marketing is a waste of money. Agents and brokers are told that "print marketing is dead", that they need to get their listings on YouTube. If you aren't using video in your real estate marketing, you'll soon be branded a dinosaur and a luddite.
The problem arises that consumers without internet service (or with agonizingly slow broadband) won't be able to admire your listing videos. If these consumers can't afford a smartphone or tablet, and they don't own a computer at home, your Internet marketing will be invisible to them. Even if the user is able to afford a smartphone, what will it matter if Internet connectivity is poor or nonexistent in their community?
Add to this dilemma the fact that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have little competition and no incentive to invest in infrastructure. After all, when you are permitted to sell the public slow connection speeds at inflated prices, why bother? And in order to guarantee their future control over internet connectivity, the ISP lobby has consistently opposed competition from municipal broadband providers in at least twenty states.
Realtors have their own lobby and the National Association of Realtors supports net neutrality. Network providers should not be permitted to discriminate in the delivery or speed of internet data transmissions. Proposed Internet “fast lanes” would be an example of this discriminatory handling of data.
Moreover, the glaring disparity in the speed and delivery of internet service across the country is in direct conflict with the fundamental principles behind NAR's "Equal Professional Service Model" which was crafted to assist real estate practitioners in providing "the same level of service to all real estate consumers".
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