The gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all.
The COVID-19 crisis is exposing how the cracks in the US’s creaking digital infrastructure are potentially putting lives at risk, exclusive research shows. With most of the country on lockdown and millions relying on the internet for work, healthcare, education and shopping, research by M-Lab, an open source project which monitors global internet performance, showed that internet service slowed across the country after the lockdown. “This is going to kill people,” said Sascha Meinrath, a professor at Penn State University and co-founder of M-Lab.
4-H and Microsoft released a report that captures how much broadband can mean to youth and their communities. The report is based on a survey of more than 1,500 teens, ages 13 to 19, that was conducted in November 2019.
State Broadband Initiatives: Selected State and Local Approaches as Potential Models for Federal Initiatives to Address the Digital Divide
To further assist in closing the digital divide, states have been developing their own broadband programs and initiatives. Although many state broadband initiatives focus on building out broadband infrastructure, states have also been considering other factors. As each state approaches broadband access and deployment differently, this report analyzes selected state-level and local initiatives that have tried different approaches—approaches that may serve as models for future federal broadband initiatives.
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) ReConnect broadband program, which awards grants and loans to expand rural connectivity, has distributed more than $620 million to 70 providers in 31 states as part of ReConnect round one. Just over half of the awardees are community networks, including rural cooperatives, local governments, community agencies, and a tribal provider. The other ReConnect awardees are locally owned providers.
I live in rural America cut off from the internet. The pandemic has made me more isolated than ever.
When I moved to Drain (OR) population 1,169, I did so because it was my dream to buy a small farm and land is cheaper here than in larger towns. What I didn’t realize was that in rural America, internet options are often limited. Now that the libraries and businesses I used to rely on for internet have closed, the threads of connection I clung to before have been taken away. I cannot rent DVDs. I cannot go to the library to work. Even cruising grocery store aisles is a bad idea.
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who has previously waded into debates on net neutrality, slammed the Federal Communications Commission and broadband companies for not doing enough to address the digital divide. In a video with Rep.
This digital divide has always left children and adults alike with fewer educational and economic opportunities. But with schools, libraries, and workplaces closed during the coronavirus pandemic, those without broadband are struggling to access schoolwork, job listings, unemployment benefit applications, and video chat services that others use to keep in touch with friends and family. For those on the wrong side of the digital divide, working from home isn’t an option.
Regarding Steven Davidoff Solomon’s “Berkeley Schools Leave Every Child Behind” (op-ed, April 3), Solomon should know that under federal law public schools (unlike his first daughter’s private school) cannot just plow ahead with a structure that excludes free access to any student, whatever the special need and without threat of serious legal challenges with financial consequences to the district and the district taxpayers.
What are steps local leaders can take right now to help low-income and vulnerable families access broadband connections and devices to get online during the crisis?
- Help Your Residents Access Free and Low-Cost Broadband Plans
- Help Residents Access Free Devices
- Leverage Public Wi-Fi Options
- Partner with the Private Sector
- Connect with Your State Leadership
[Angelina Panettieri is the Legislative Manager for Information Technology and Communications at the National League of Cities]