The gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all.
On Feb 7, the House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing, “Preserving an Open Internet for Consumers, Small Businesses, and Free Speech,” another conversation on net neutrality and an opportunity for lawmakers to spend three hours claiming they support an open internet, while rehashing old, partisan debates and making little progress towards a legislative solution.
As a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Geoffrey Starks said he hopes to make a leading priority of closing that digital divide — that is, the gulf between those with internet access and those without. It's one item on a consumer welfare-centered policy wishlist he said he hopes to push, alongside holding wrongdoers like illegal robocallers accountable and expanding the use of telehealth services. “I’m going to be focused on real solutions,” Commissioner Starks said. “I think everyday Americans expect that as well.
Since the 1930s, policymakers have known that rural communications is a “market failure” — something that happens when private companies cannot or will not provide a socially desirable good because of a lack of return on investment. At that time, electricity and telephone companies were simply unwilling to enter rural America: The population was too sparse and the geography too vast. As a result, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936 to provide loans and grants to rural electric and telephone companies.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition joined Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, United Church of Christ and members of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Media/Telecom Task Force in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing concern over proposed findings in the agency’s upcoming Broadband Deployment Progress Report. They requested the FCC:
Missouri has 30 counties where more than a third of homes and businesses do not have access to high-speed internet service. There’s no single, unified effort to resolve the problem on federal, state or local levels, making it tough for businesses looking to move in and economic development more difficult for regions that need to attract those jobs.
Rural electric cooperatives (RECs) have some specific characteristics that make them uniquely qualified to undertake significant and meaningful strides in conquering the digital divide. Beyond their community focus, RECs possess important skills and assets that make expansion into broadband very favorable. Those skills and assets include:
Nearly three-quarters of the downloads hitting Microsoft servers from nonmetropolitan counties are so slow they don’t meet the Federal Communications Commission definition of broadband. Microsoft’s county-level data shows a big gap between what the federal government says is available and what people actually use. The main takeaway from this is that accurate data to measure broadband access and use remains elusive.
In Georgia, at least 626,070 people live without access to broadband service, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But it’s probably closer to 1.6 million Georgians who lack access to adequate broadband, according to the state Department of Community Affairs, which is in the midst of a statewide mapping project. The agency’s initial work shows a patchwork of coverage that is particularly thin in parts of middle and South Georgia.
Phone calls are sometimes the only comfort for families who live far from the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center, run by the Hampden County Sheriff's Department, where prisoners are held both before trial and while serving sentences. But the calls are costly because they must be made through an outside company — much more costly than for people outside jails. Calls at the jail cost 12 cents per minute.