Home > Uncategorized > The New Digital Divide: Access to High-Speed Internet Necessary but Unobtainable

The New Digital Divide: Access to High-Speed Internet Necessary but Unobtainable

While the “digital divide” of the 1990s has abated as more Americans own their own computer, a new digital divide threatens the rural and low-income to middle-class populations in the US.

The new divide separates the high-speed Internet connection haves from the have-nots. Some have-nots simply cannot afford the expense of high-speed Internet. According to the Communications Workers of America (CWA), “in the U.S., DSL generally reaches speeds of up to 1.5 – 3.0 megabytes per second (mbps) at a price averaging $30-$50 per month while cable modems generally reach speeds of 3-5 mbps for $40-$50 per month.” By contrast, “in Japan, an average connection with a speed of 26 mbps costs about $22 per month.” The expense of Internet, an invaluable resource, is becoming a luxury for many American families due to job uncertainty or unemployment who are forced to cancel subscriptions.

Another group of have-nots simply do not live in an area serviced by high-speed Internet providers. Typically, rural areas fare the worst. The CWA reported that “only 17% of adults in rural areas subscribe to high speed Internet compared to 31% in urban and 30% in suburban areas.” While it may seem like these rural areas are far-flung, out-of-the-way places, one may be surprised that this issue hits close to home. Bastrop, only an hour east of Austin, does not receive any broadband services.

So why does this matter? The Website SpeedMatters.org explains it well.

“High speed Internet is essential for economic growth and global competitiveness. The United States – the country that invented the Internet – has fallen from 1st to 15th in high-speed Internet penetration. High-tech innovation, job growth, telemedicine, distance learning, rural development, public safety, and e-government require truly high-speed, universal networks.”
Skillpoint Alliance and CTTC agree with SpeedMatters.org. The US needs national, universal high-speed Internet access. It is time to replace the hodgepodge networks built by obscure government programs and private service providers.

Please take time to learn more about this issue. Speedmatters.org is a wonderful resource to learn why this is so important and how to get involved, and you can read about how broadband access can bring job growth to rural towns in a recent article in The Washington Post.

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