RS1: Cleveland

On the wrong side of the digital divide in Cleveland, OH

When it comes to the digital divide, one may look no further than Cleveland, Ohio, to find an intriguing example. Belt Magazine’s Afi Scruggs explored the rift in broadband internet access within the city, and what he found wasn’t pretty. According to Scruggs, “Roughly half of Cleveland households do not have broadband internet access. Advocates say this digital divide will gravely deepen economic inequality in the city” (para. 3).

Scruggs’ conversation with East 111th Street resident David Rosario is a prime indicator of the deeper effects that Cleveland’s digital divide creates. He explains how Rosario’s phone “is his lifeline, When he wants to relax, he watches YouTube or posts on Instagram from his phone. Of course, there’s texting when he needs to contact friends and family. And he’s quick to explain why” (para. 6). Not surprisingly, Rosario suggested that his heavy reliance on his phone is due to the fact that he does not have access to internet at his house. This is likely the case for many Cleveland residents, as according to Scruggs, “the percentage of Cleveland households without sufficient internet access shoots up to almost 50. As being wired shifts from luxury to necessity, advocates say this digital divide will gravely deepen economic inequality in the city” (para. 10). Simply put, “‘if you have poor broadband connectivity, you leave the impoverished, impoverished,’ says Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, a fellow in the Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation” (para. 11).

Those living in the underserved areas of Cleveland are positioned at a disadvantage in various parts of life compared to those with high-speed connections elsewhere. This may include health benefits, education, and more. “Just as one’s zip code determines health outcomes, the zip code determines the quality of available broadband,” (para. 15) Dr. Amy Sheon, who heads the Urban Health Initiative at Case Western Reserve University, says. In the city, the digital divide is obviously a problem.

Scruggs went on to describe how “in low-income neighborhoods like Rosario’s, internet service providers have not upgraded network connections. The neighborhood was one of the areas where Connect Your Community claims AT&T neglected to upgrade its broadband technology” (para. 26). But, this doesn’t mean that the rift can’t be closed in Cleveland, “a city with a growing reputation for digital innovation and economic development, but only in select areas,” (para. 39) according to Turner-Lee.

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