The new digital divides

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A look at four emerging forms of digital inequality: privacy, education, screen time and news. As ubiquitous as broadband connectivity may seem for those who live in cities or suburbs with comfortable incomes, here's the reality:

  • Less than one-fifth of Americans live in a neighborhood where at least 80% of the residents have broadband, according to a report last year from the Brookings Institution.
  • Nearly one-in-five teens are sometimes unable to complete homework because of lack of a reliable computer or internet connection, per Pew.
  • Local news and information is becoming scarce and hard to access: More than 500 newspapers have closed or merged in rural communities since 2004.

There are two types of “digital divide” operating today:

  • The geographic divide: Rural and other areas are underserved because it doesn’t make financial sense for companies to invest in infrastructure.
  • The economic divide: Infrastructure is in place, but lower-income families lack affordable access and devices.

Why it matters: These divides are colliding and combining in troubling ways — and creating a whole spectrum of education, information, and privacy inequality.

The new digital divides