RS1: San Francisco

In the Heart of Tech, a Persistent Digital Divide

Even in the heart of Silicon Valley, the digital divide between low-income citizens and the wealthy is drastically apparent. Snarr emphasizes that, “[w]hile multi-billion dollar companies develop the latest new Internet services, 100,000 San Francisco residents cannot afford a home connection” (para. 1). The majority of these 100,000 are minorities who lack higher education or an income over $25,000. Compare this to the overwhelming population of college-educated, White or Asian citizens who not only have home internet, but high-speed internet. This digital divide is especially evident in the education of children. The city and Internet providers have tried to bridge the gap through low cost plans and limited online access, “[b]ut that does not solve the needs of students with several hours of homework each night requiring Internet access,” according to Snarr (para. 15). Kami Griffiths, executive director and co-founder of the Community Technology Network, states that these children are forced to “stand outside coffeehouses to get the free Wi-Fi they need to do their schoolwork,” (para. 8) and must use mobile devices for their academic purposes, which “aren’t good tools for job searching and homework” (para. 10). Children are not the only ones affected by the digital divide; Snarr remarks that the limited access to internet also impacts “job-seeking residents who need to make dozens of applications online and be instantly available by email for employers,” or “seniors and others without affordable entertainment or modern means of communication” (para. 15). The FCC has actually widened the rift by declaring “its definition of high-speed broadband to 25 Mbps for downloading and 4 Mbps for uploading” (para. 16). The most basic package that accommodates this speed costs an average of $68.75 a month, which is a significant cost to many low-income families. The city of San Francisco, however, has made attempts to remedy this divide, supervisor Mark Ferrell called for research on how “San Francisco can deliver 1-gigabit-per-second Internet service to residents and businesses citywide for free or very low cost” (para. 17) but how it will be funded is still up in the air.

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