RS1: Madison

Madison’s low-cost internet pilot program closes, 19 customers disconnected

Abigail Becker’s article describes the efforts made to bring cheaper internet access to lower-income neighborhoods in Madison, Wisconsin, through the “Connecting Madison” program (para. 2). To do so, the city enlisted the help of the local internet provider, ResTech Services, to “build a fiber-optic broadband network” in certain neighborhoods (para. 2). While the company wanted to provide service for under ten dollars a month with “unlimited data and a minimum speed of 25 megabits per second” (para. 6), multiple barriers eventually led to the downfall of the program. The exclusivity of the program and competition with other providers meant that only “19 customers” and “86 buildings” were able to obtain the service between 2016 and 2018 (para. 8). With the closure of the program in June 2018, the residents who participated have lost the benefits they paid for. Moreover, Becker describes that the program was unorganized, since members from the program were unable to get “permission from landlords to enter particular buildings” (para. 14). This means the program was unable to extend the fiber-optic network to the poorer neighborhoods and achieve its core goal: providing affordable internet to residents. Toward the end of the article, reports explain issues of the digital divide that may have caused the program’s failure. Aside from the aforementioned reasons, the city found that residents “may still lack knowledge of how to use internet services” or may not own a “home computer” (para. 20). Despite these barriers, the city of Madison will continue its efforts to bridge the gap of the digital divide because, in the words of the City Council President, Samba Baldeh, “in this current generation, access is key for anything” (para. 24).

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