While the vast majority of Americans now have access to the Internet and mobile devices, regional and economic disparities persist for wired broadband access in the largest 100 American cities. That was the conclusion of a report on broadband access published 12/07/2015 by researchers at the Brookings Institute, a D.C. based think tank.
“The American economy has gone digital,” (Digital by Default) Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program, and Joseph Kane, a research assistant, wrote in the report. “Yet, the rapid transition to online content and services comes at a price. Buying cheaper goods directly from wholesalers, immediately accessing government services, and finding employment opportunities are increasingly only available to those who have an online connection.”
Listed here are the four quick takeaways from Brookings’ research on the digital divides that remain and what to do about them.
- Internet adoption remains closely tied to education and income. In 2014, 75% of American households had a broadband Internet subscription. Overall that was true, however, of only 46.8% of households with income under $20,000 and for 54.1% of individuals with less than a high school diploma. Digital divides persist across age, race, and for people with disabilities.
- Broadband adoption varies across major cities, particularly across the South. There is uneven service quality as well as differing rates of household adoption of broadband Internet use across the United States, with high penetration in the hubs of the tech industry, like Silicon Valley, Boston and Seattle, and low penetration across the South. Researchers noted that differences in price and speed limit growth opportunities for online entrepreneurs and industry. While access to food, water, power and heat remain paramount, online access is also critical.
- San Jose, California, is the most wired. Laredo, Texas is the least. San Jose, is the most wired at (88.2%) and Laredo, has to lowest at (56.2%). Overall, there are two cities from California and two from Colorado in the top 10 most wired cities. There are 4 medium-sized cities from Texas in the bottom 10.
- Increases in telecommuting drive broadband adoption more than any other factor measured. The researchers found that the percentage of adults working from home had the strongest correlation with household broadband adoption, followed by income and education. Which makes sense: If you need Internet access to do your work, broadband is essential.
- To address the disparities, the Brookings researchers recommend the following policies for federal, state and city officials:
- Prioritizing targeted income assistance programs like the Lifeline program and ConnectHome to help close the “homework gap” for students who do not have Internet access at home to do research or collaborate on assignments.
- Expanding digital skills curricula to help people make the most of that subsidized Internet access.
- Investing E-Rate funds in libraries to serve as expanded hubs for public Internet access and training centers.
- Forming public-private partnerships with local Internet service providers to work towards all of these goals.
Read Article (Alexander Howard | huffingtonpost.com | 12/18/2015)
The American economy, like in the UK and many developed countries, is going “Digital by Default.” In a perfect world, the evolution of technology and evolution of each users’ skill-set, would occur at the same pace; unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the Digital Divide is the result.
But, with your support we can seriously begin to address issues of the Digital Divide on a global scale.
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