RS1: The Nation

The Digital Divide: A Quarter of the Nation Is Without Broadband

As the internet continues to grow at rapid rates many people are surpassing their peers in the capabilities of what they are able to accomplish. As is the case in the Appalachia region where many people can barely get enough connection to stream a video. Karl Vick, the author of a Time magazine article, “The Digital Divide: A Quarter of the Nation Is Without Broadband,” explains how much of this “region remains as backward and stunted as its stereotype. Decades into the information age, folks in these parts continue to make do with dial-up” (2). The digital divide in America is not solely occurring due to a lack of recourses in rural areas but as Vick notes that “Less than half of households living on under $20,000 are connected” (4). Causing a greater divide in the equal opportunities of education and well-being for less fortunate people.

Vick highlights that Washington legislators planned to provide broadband internet access as a public utility like water, and electricity, but many people are questioning whether it is feasible due to its dynamic nature. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission headed by Ajit Pai created what Vick refers to as “a patchwork of programs that have left vast portions of the country unserved” (9). Such programs include a lifetime program that helps low-income families achieve better internet quality through subsidies funded form a universal service but is rapidly decreasing in funds. With all the services provided by people in rural areas to Washington, Vick is baffled the services aren’t be reciprocated pointing out that “government responds to more than constituents” (16). Some critics believe that communication companies continuing to partake in mega-mergers are creating less competition, which, in turn, hinderers on the opportunity for widespread internet access. These concerns were expressed as a possible conflict of interest to FCC chairman and former Verizon lawyer Pai, as he voted against the expansion of programs that allow public libraries to receive telecommunications and internet access from the FCC. Pai defended his position stating, “I don’t really care what technology or business model or sector of the community is trying to deliver full-spectrum communications services to consumers” (18).

Vick holds a firm belief that competition in the marketplace is a remedy to the digital divide, but points out that it “exists in only a quarter of areas wired for broadband” (19). Some local governments are taking matters into their own hands by building their own servers allowing users to set up and use applications and services without direct intervention from a service provider or IT company. Many cable companies are pushing back on this idea and have convinced legislators to ban the implementation. There are many possible solutions to the digital divide, yet many people still are without adequate internet access during a time when it is more valuable than ever. In order for any attempt at the solution to bridge the digital divide that plagues America Vick declares any solution “requires a unity of purpose not yet seen from a President who ran as a populist and arrived in Washington surrounded by captains of industry” (20). Vick believes the task is enormous and is unlikely to be solved in a timely manner.

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