How Much Is Internet Access Worth to You?

By Maurice Nagle April 26, 2016

In sports there are many tales of epic heroism, from Madison Square Garden erupting when Willis Reed walked out of the tunnel in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Carlton Fisk’s walk-off homerun in the 1975 World Series, Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beater against Kentucky or even Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game.  

A little known sports fact is 49er and NFL legend Ronnie Lott cemented his place in the annals of sports history when he suffered a broken pinkie in April 1986, and to avoid a long recovery period had the finger amputated. Lott loved football so much so he was willing to lose a finger to ensure he didn’t miss an opportunity to be on the field. Apparently, more Americans than you’d think are willing to do the same to remain connected to the Internet.

I can recall a time when a smartphone was the figment of imagination, and the ubiquity of cell phones was a glimmer in the eyes of mobile operators. It was a time when the soundtrack to the Internet was provided by AOL, we all know that classic dial-up  tone well. However, as innovation puts more power in our pockets, the more we rely on these devices and the Internet in our day to day lives.

From viral videos, to keeping tabs on our favorite sports teams and stock quote it’s fair to say the Internet is an active component in life. AT&T recently surveyed 2,000 Americans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and asked some provocative questions, most notably “would you rather cut off your own finger or give up the Internet forever” and the responses are quite telling.

Over 30 percent of respondents would rather lose a finger than the Internet. Broken down to a more granular level, nearly 36 percent of men and over 22 percent of women would select losing a digit in exchange for the Internet.

Another interesting question raised by the AT&T survey was “Would you give up the Internet forever to save a stranger’s life?” Don’t be too alarmed by the notion that more than 55 percent of respondents said “No.” The younger the respondent the more likely “no” was the response, as 71 percent of those 18-20 years of age answered “No”, with the most “caring” group being those in the 50-59 age range as only 35 percent would sacrifice the life of a stranger in exchange for lifetime Internet access. From a gender perspective, more than 60 percent of males and nearly 50 percent of females agreed the Internet is more important than the life of another.

“Wow, just wow!” was my initial reaction. But faced with the above questions giving a response is much easier said than done. The fact is, I need the Internet to live my life today. Without the Internet I am incapable of performing my job, lose the ability to communicate with many and (from a more personal point of contention) would lose access to “House of Cards” and all the streaming bliss that is Netflix. Literally, every aspect of my life involves the Internet and I know I am not alone on this one.

Today people rely on the Internet to manage finances, find a mate, read news, communicate with disparate friends, conduct business, and so much more. So what do these results say about humanity? We need the Internet and are willing to make sacrifices to maintain access. Ronnie Lott gave up his pinkie finger for the game he loved. While my gut tells me I’m incapable of such an action, my head reminds me that I don’t have to answer the question. The Internet has always served as a transformative technology, today it is a necessity.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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