accessibility Digital Divide

The digital divide is real and it’s painful

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Beth LisogorskyFollowAug 2 · 2 min read

If our founding fathers had access to Internet back when our great nation came to be, I’m pretty sure “the right to Internet, regardless of your economic status” would have been on the roster of important amendments.

It might have even started as a parking lot item, before finding its way to the middle of the pile, somewhere between quartering soldiers and search and seizure. Point is, it would have likely been included as a basic human right, especially if the pandemic were on and all kids and adults were expected to be online tapping into the bandwidth well for upwards of 8 hours a day. And if your child is playing Roblox, Minecraft, or any of the other games that suck up your bandwidth that # jumps exponentially.

But that didn’t happen. Of course not. The internet didn’t exist back then.

So now we’re in 2020, and having to face certain realities.

One of the realities that Gigi Sohn, former Counsel to the FCC Chairman, a Distinguished Fellow in Technology at Georgetown’s Law Institute, and an impassioned advocate for Internet being deemed a “utility” asserts is that there’s a lack of accountability when it comes to federal agencies having visibility on how Internet service providers (ISPs) are spending what amounts to a whole lot of cash ($24M).

Another challenge is how we define connectivity. If ISPs are using a definition that if 1 house in a census block area has connectivity, all homes have connectivity, this is a problem. The availability could be there, but the access isn’t and that could be for a host of issues, including cost of the service.The Cost of Connectivity 2020Our study of internet pricing points to an affordability crisis in the U.S., where consumers pay more than consumers in…www.newamerica.org

The Cost of Connectivity 2020 by New America goes into detail about the FCC’s lack of oversight when it comes to ISPs but also highlights the challenges with this calculation:

“ISPs must disclose where they can feasibly offer internet service at speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction (upload or download speed) and list the census blocks where “they can or do offer service to at least one location.”144 This method is imprecise and overcounts availability, especially in rural areas where census blocks tend to be larger.”

So what does all this amount to? It’s a mess.

30% of Americans don’t have access to Internet, not to mention the ones that do that have lackluster speeds of 25 Mbps up and down. DSL is still a thing in rural communities.

And the results are tangible. Kids in urban and suburban areas with educational needs that can’t be met if they don’t have access, large investment in closing the gap in some urban areas, like Chicago’s South Side, and healthcare impacts as Telehealth becomes the new normal.

Add to this, households with non-native English speakers and non-tech savvy adults, and you have a recipe for further fall behind, per Lloyd Levine, a leading expert in tech from California.

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Beth Lisogorsky

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Beth Lisogorsky

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Interested in culture, kids, learning, and technology. Basically one giant multi-hyphenate, generalist.