A letter from Italy

I've been fortunate to have done a fair amount of traveling around the world, and always find it refreshing. I know that I tend to take what we have here in the States for granted, and forget that many are less fortunate and have to get by with less.

So when I received the following message from Marie DiCocco, (mdicocco@home.compumaint.it) a long-time friend who is now living in a small town in Italy, I thought it particularly timely. Here is what Marie has to say about getting an Internet connection in her town:

Until recently, I've lived in the U.S. where many of my neighbors were all buying the latest and greatest computer and finding the biggest, fastest, and cheapest Internet provider we could. We viewed getting connected to the rest of the world as something we were entitled to do.

However, when I moved to a small town of 7,000 people in Italy, my Internet neighborhood changed quite dramatically. I'm willing to bet that the number of people with computers in their homes can probably be counted on one hand.

Although we have friends all over Italy, I still haven't talked to a single one that has Internet access. People here still cherish personal contact and can't understand America's fascination with technology. Some of our friends (in the truly industrial north) who do have computers would still rather hand-write a letter. For example, my next-door neighbors are an anesthesiologist/ head nurse couple with a TV, VCR, and a Nintendo -- but no computer.

When we arrived a year ago, the Internet was unheard of down here. That has changed recently with the arrival of a local Internet provider, a small computer store with a branch in our town. We purchased a year-long contract for $195, but with only an hour per day of Internet access. Unlimited access is $273 per year. So far, that doesn't sound too bad.

On top of that I have to add the cost for our telephone usage, which in Italy is charged by the scatto. One scatto costs about 150 lira or about 10 cents. The length of time that a scatto lasts varies from three minutes in peak daytime to almost seven minutes overnight. So if I stay on-line for one hour each day during prime time, I'll end up paying around $700 a year for my telephone usage, or half that in off-hours. And that's for a local call.

If you have to make a non-local call to your Internet provider, it can get expensive. Even though Naples is only about a half hour away, a scatto lasts about 15 seconds in prime time and 45 seconds in off-hours.

Needless to say, I use my Internet access almost exclusively for e-mail. I've only surfed the web a few times -- each time after 10 pm and for the least amount of time I could manage and still find what I was looking for.

As much as I miss the easy and cheap access to technology back in the States, I am really enjoying the easier pace of life that I've found here. My blood pressure has dropped and I've lost weight without even trying. And after spending a few hours in front of the computer screen working at home now, I feel weird and almost nervous. So I'm not always so sure that having such easy access in the U.S. is a good thing or not. Maybe part of our problem is that we've lost so much of the personal contact -- we've forgotten that there's a real live person at the other end of our modem.

Awards, site-keeping, and self-promotions dep't

Thanks for the note, Marie and I hope you all find it interesting. Just to give you all some perspective, at least 20 percent of the hits to my Web Informant web site come from outside the U.S., and that has been fairly consistent since it began last fall.

No awards this week, sorry but getting back in the groove is hard.

I wanted to tell you about something exciting that I'll be doing at the end of August: I'll be going down to New Orleans for the CA-World trade show, and hope to see some of you there. It will be an experiment in real- time electronic journalism for me -- I'll be writing daily stories and profiling attendees and announcements, but with a twist: everything will be placed on www.caworld.com's web site, within minutes (hopefully) after the event happens. Do check the site during the next couple of weeks and especially during 25-29 August.

This week a story I wrote for Windows Sources on various web servers hit the newsstands and you can check it out on my site.

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David Strom
+1 516 944 3407
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