In the "Soft Cities" section of "City of Bits" Mitchell contends that offering free Net access might someday become an important part of the community. In economically disadvantaged communities, where adequate public facilities of a traditional kind do not exist, the possibility of providing public cyberspace may become an important community development issue. Increasingly, communities and their planners will have to consider tradeoffs between investing scarce resources in creating or upgrading parks and community buildings and putting the money into effective electronic networks.
Some would contend that it is silly to even begin to spend money on these issues while human beings go hungry and homeless. While I don't think anyone would contend that the Internet is the societal fix that will lead us to Utopia, many advocates do believe that the Internet does merit diverting funds from other areas. Is this simply an issue of trade-offs, or is there something deeper going on here? Will the Internet follow the boom-bust cycle of technologies which are hailed as a panacea only to face a huge backlash of disillusionment when they fail to bring true reform?
And finally, is the Internet worth it?