Internet Access Isn’t Just A Tech Issue. It’s A Civil Rights Issue.

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In major metropolitan areas across the US, unequal access to the Internet is cutting some people off from a better future. Citizens on the wrong side of the digital gap are losing out on economic, educational and social opportunities. It’s not just a technical problem for the 21st century. “This is a civil rights issue,” said Bill Callahan, director of Connect Your Community. “Low-income people, people with less than a high school education and older people are the groups in any population who are least likely to have an Internet connection at home,” he said.

Callahan’s group advocates for digital access and literacy in greater Cleveland (OH) and Detroit (MI). In those cities — and others from Baltimore (MD) to New Orleans (LA), from Miami (FL) to Glendale (AZ) — as many as 30 to 40 percent of residents can’t easily get online, according to 2013 data. Rural areas have a fairly well-known set of digital access problems that include high cost and sluggish speeds due to the lack of broadband infrastructure. But in suburban and metro areas, libraries are typically cited as a the saving grace for residents who lack online access at home. That’s not good enough in our wired world. “If the best someone can do is point you to the library, that’s basically ‘separate but equal,’” said Callahan, making a pointed reference to the very argument that the Supreme Court once declared didn’t justify segregated schools.


Internet Access Isn’t Just A Tech Issue. It’s A Civil Rights Issue.