RS1: Chicago

Study shows Chicago slow in bridging digital divide

The Chicago Tribune reports that the digital divide within the city of Chicago has been slow to close due to the lack of affordability of broadband for lower income families, especially those in the south and west sides. The gap has closed significantly between 2008 and 2013, as the areas in the south and west sides have “experienced higher rates of growth in home broadband and Internet usage away from home” (para. 9). Even then, those who do not have access to the internet via a broadband service often connect through a mobile data plan. However, these growth rates have only applied to public places, such as schools and libraries, and do not consider home broadband access.

Karen Mossberger, an Arizona State University professor, states the reason for “the continued divide could be affordability” (para. 11). More specifically, people often see buying a smartphone and a date plan as more affordable rather than paying for a laptop or for additional broadband. This limits them though, as Mossberger states “mobile internet usage may have a cap, particularly with cheaper plans, further limiting people’s usage” (para. 11). Mossberger also states that “reading intensive things” and “filling out forms” (para. 4) is much harder to do on a mobile device than a laptop or desktop. This limits people’s abilities to “use online courses, visit government websites, look up political information or access online job applications” (para. 3). When people are subject to more broadband intensive work, such as helping their kids with homework or creating a résumé, they are “limited to their public library’s hours and basic internet searches they’re able to perform on their phones” (para. 5). The research done by Mossberger and her associates “could help city leaders and community groups make more informed policy decisions on how to increase broadband access” (para. 7) in lower income neighborhoods and decrease the digital divide in Chicago in the future.

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