In a world where connectivity has become the essence of communication, millions of Americans are still unable to access the internet. It contributes to a ‘Digital Divide’ in society, i.e., those with computer access and those without it.
Why Does the Digital Divide Matter?
The digital divide matters because it creates a massive inequality between those who have access to technology and the resources it provides and those who do not.
Technology has become an essential part of our lives, so accessing the internet is crucial when it comes to information sharing and keeping ourselves aware.
The Ground Reality
19 million Americans cannot access broadband connections defined in the parameters of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which makes up about 7% of the population. In rural areas, that number jumps to nearly half of the population.
The Reasons for the Divide
Digital divides can be caused by several reasons. Following are some of the significant reasons we’ve identified:
The cost of internet service and devices can be a barrier for some people.
Some areas, particularly rural areas, do not have access to high-speed internet.
Some people may not have the skills to use computers or the internet.
Some people may not see the value in using the internet and may not need it.
The Effects of Digital Divides
Digital divides can cause the following effects:
· Economic Inequality
People without access to the internet are at a disadvantage when finding jobs, accessing education, and getting government services.
· Social Inequality
People without access to the internet can feel left out of conversations and disconnected from their communities.
· Political Inequality
People without access to the internet are less likely to be engaged in political processes.
· Environmental Inequality
People without access to the internet are less likely to access information on climate change and reduce their carbon footprint.
The American Speed for Internet Access
As mentioned above, the requirement by FCC is 25 Mbps download speeds for high-speed internet and 3 Mbps upload speeds. However, experts conclude that American consumption is a lot more than FCC’s required. Therefore, the estimated speed based on citizens’ usage is at least 100 Mbps for adequately meeting their online needs.
The average American receives up to 250 Mbps. Therefore, the FCC’s multi-billion dollar investment in broadband expansion for rural and low-income families still results in a significant divide in internet speeds. There is a noticeable difference between 25 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 250 Mbps.
The Efforts being made to Bridge the Divide
- The FCC’s Connect America Fund invests billions of dollars in broadband expansion for rural and low-income families.
- The Universal Service Fund provides subsidies to help make internet service more affordable for low-income families.
- Nonprofit organizations, such as Everyone, are working to provide low-cost internet access and devices to those who need them.
- Schools and libraries offer computer and internet literacy classes to help people learn how to use the internet.
- The private sector is creating products and services that are affordable and easy to use, making them available to more people.
While these initiatives are essential, the FCC recognizes that much work needs to be done. As a result, the agency has recently announced a new broadband expansion program that’ll invest billions of dollars in high-speed internet for rural and low-income families.
U.S. citizens are concerned about the digital divide. While many initiatives and projects are underway, people in power need to address the problem and develop viable solutions actively.
Let’s work together towards a future we can all look forward to.