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Mining town stuck on the shoulder of the information superhighway

By Mike Anton

Here on the shoulder of the information superhighway, smartphones turn stupid, streaming videos shrink to a trickle and a simple download drags like a flat tire.

Darwin is a former mining town cloistered in the high desert mountains between Death Valley National Park and the China Lake naval weapons testing center. Finding it isn’t easy — a sign that marked the turnoff from State Highway 190 was stolen recently.

Darwin is emblematic of the nation’s digital divide — the disparity between those with broadband access and those suspended in the technological amber of the 1990s, with dial-up connections to the Web.

In 2000, just 3% of American adults used broadband at home, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Today, about 60% do. Only 3% use dial-up.

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