According to Megan Tady from the web site Free Press, in her report "Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road," more than 14.3 million rural homes across the country – 61 percent – are not connected to high speed Internet." As she notes, in practical terms that means millions of people can't apply for a job online, take a class, start home-based businesses, get news and information and, I may add, prevent antique shops from selling online through their web sites that are uniquely created for their business. In short, lack of broadband inhibits the growth of the antique trade.
Below is the March 2009 Refurnished Thoughts column I wrote on the subject.
The ‘Stimulus’ effect on antiquing
by Bruce Rodgers
As a group, antique shop owners and dealers, aren’t a very high-tech group. (Considering the use of the words “antique” and “high-tech” in the same sentence, I know there’s a joke in there somewhere.) Sure, thousands of shops nationwide have tied their ecommerce functions to operations like Ruby Lane, TIAS.com, eBay or WorthPoint, and some are going it alone in selling antiques and collectibles online through their website.
But my experience as publisher of DMA has revealed that many shop owners in the Midwest — especially in small towns — consider a fax machine and dial-up email the peak of their high-tech experience. Though some might blame age or a generation gap as the factor in this avoidance of the high-tech world — as if everyone who likes antiques uses the word to describe their longevity on the this planet — the fact is the Internet is slow in coming to small town American because not many telecom companies thought there was money to be made in bringing broadband to the hinterland.
That fact is born out by the United States being 17th worldwide in broadband penetration compared to other developed countries. Yet, of the active U.S. Internet users, 89% use broadband. The qualifier should be “where available.”
Regardless of how you feel politically about the $787 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act signed by President Obama, it’s going to expand broadband availability and through that get more antique shops online and in ecommerce.
Some $7.2 billion of the legislation is set aside for broadband access and adoption, and directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to come up with a national plan.
A good chunk of that money ($4.35 billion) will be distributed through a temporary grant program distributed by The National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The requirement is that such broadband projects must be completed within two years of the awarding the grant and must adhere to Internet nondiscrimination and openness principles established by the FCC.
All this is good news to those shop owners who want to have a website that doesn’t take 15 minutes to upload, and, at least, begin to consider selling online.
I don’t think the brick and mortar aspect of selling antiques will go away. Though I do think small shops will have increased difficulty staying afloat without going online and taking on the basic aspects of Internet marketing.
The personal dynamic wrapped into the conversation about bidding on or buying an antique will always be an essential and attractive factor in the business. And it’s something that can’t quite be duplicated through shopping on the Internet though blogging can help alleviate the dryness in the exchange.
And where does that leave print as an advertising vehicle? Daily newspapers aside, publications that focus on a particular subject will survive. But as a reminder, Discovery Publications builds small business websites and we know a little about ecommerce.