Patrice on Tue, 29 May 2001 02:40:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Washington State Ferries and the Digital Divide

A somewhat folkloric story from to-days Seattle Post-Intelligencer (lifted
without any permission whatsoever!), but which may have some import beyond
those slow mastodonts cruising the Puget Sound...


Getting There: That online-only ferry pass bargain -- is it out of line as

Monday, May 28, 2001
(George Foster)

Question: Does offering a discounted state ferry pass only to online
customers constitute discrimination against the unwired?

Nicholas Xxron of Bainbridge Island thinks so. In fact, he's a little irate,
particularly because he can't buy this $66.20 monthly passenger pass with
hard cash at the ferry terminal.

The pass is not a bad deal, provided you have a credit card, a computer and
a modem. It offers unlimited use of both car and passenger-only vessels on
all Seattle-Bainbridge, Seattle-Bremerton and Edmonds-Kingston runs.

For the daily commuter, this is a larger savings than Frequent User books of
10 roundtrip tickets, which -- at $31.50 -- don't include the extra price of
riding passenger-only ferries.

Consider Nicholas' point of view: "I am not online and I have no interest in

Furthermore, he added, "I think this (offer) is a blatant act of
discrimination by a public organization."

Answer: We called a Seattle consumer attorney in private practice and the
state Attorney General's Office and got pretty much the same response: Our
caller does not have much of a legal case, at least based on discrimination

It seems that, even in today's wired world, the computerless are not a
protected class. Discrimination based on race, gender, age, family status or
disability is a different matter.

Consumer attorney Mark Fleming called Nicholas' arguments "very iffy." A
spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, Gary Larson, said that those he
spoke to in that agency felt "it is really a policy question rather than a
legal question."

Washington State Ferries is not making any apology for this exclusive offer.
The official response was that Xxron could go to a public library and use a
computer to order his pass, which could be renewed automatically each month.

"More and more, we are trying to be more high-tech and available to our
passengers through this type of thing," said Pat Patterson, a spokesman for
the ferry service.

Sales of the passes begin June 15 and they will take effect July 1.

Is the ferry system becoming a dot-com? we asked.

"We're trying," she added.

As for Nicholas, he is resolute: "Don't think I am going to let this go."

Washington State Ferries:
This article:

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