RS 1: Detroit

Detroit’s digital divide is leaving nearly half the city offline

In “Detroit’s digital divide is leaving nearly half the city offline,” Trevor Bach tackles the issue of internet access among the City’s residents. Bach offers anecdotes from locals without access, illustrating the extra steps they must take to stay connected or perform necessary, everyday tasks. According to Bach, although Detroit has seen economic progress in recent years, “approximately 40 percent of Detroit households remain completely offline” (1). For those who do receive access, AT&T and Comcast are the two providers who primarily serve metro Detroit, with broadband service plans starting at $40 per month and $25 per month, respectively. However, after “entering agreements with the FCC,” (2) Bach says both companies provide broadband service at lower rates for qualifying low-income residents. Even with these options and a heavy dependence on the Internet by most of the U.S., many Detroit residents still have trouble obtaining access, with former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler stating, “Detroit’s digital divide is among the most extreme in the nation” (2). Bach notes that this disparity is largely due to infrastructural issues that stem from a history of discrimination based on financial status, citing an analysis done by Bill Callahan and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. The analysis found that AT&T purposely and strategically administered better Internet connection in “wealthier southeast Michigan neighborhoods while neglecting poorer ones” in order to increase profit (2). Regarding Detroit specifically, the aforementioned organizations discovered that aside from suburban areas, most of the city is still offline. In order to help mitigate Detroit’s digital divide, Bach says the Equitable Internet Initiative, a “grassroots internet service provider” which functions as part of the Detroit Community Technology Project, sends digital stewards to homes in disadvantaged areas to connect the Internet (3). The organization focuses not only on getting homes online, but also on ensuring the connection they receive is of high-speed, according to Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project. Though the EII helps serve a small portion of Detroit, Bach notes that the city’s digital infrastructure will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future, acknowledging that the shift to an increasingly digital world “is also contributing to more inequality, with low-income people…at a greater risk of being left behind” (3).

RS 1: Detroit

The article opens up with a contrasting viewpoint of Detroit’s majorly impoverished areas by mentioning the mass amount of “startups and luxury retailers” (Kang, paragraph 1) that are setting up shop in downtown Detroit. This comes directly after the city dealt with massive economic problems and unemployment for the majority of the recent past. Kang then goes onto mention that just six miles north of this upscale paradigm shift happening in downtown Detroit, there are majorly impoverished areas, such as Hope Village, Detroit who is still struggling to climb out of major economic/unemployment turmoil. Kang then highlights the profile of Eric Hill, an unemployed 42-year-old man with his only internet access being the one free hour at his local library. Mr. Hill’s economic situation leaves him without being able to afford a personal computer or Wi-Fi for the month (his expenses go directly to rent, food and transportation), which leaves him with few options to search the job market. Mr. Hill comments “Once I leave [the library), I worry that I’m missing an email, an opportunity” (Paragraph 4). Kang then goes onto state a statistic that “Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any big American city, with four in 10 of its 689,000 residents lacking broadband, according to the FCC.” (Paragraph 6). Economists state that this high rate of individuals lacking broadband internet is an “also a crucial — and underappreciated — factor” (Kang, paragraph 9) in regards to the exceptionally high unemployment rates in areas like Hope Village, which stand in the 40% range. Kang states: “The consequences appear in the daily grind of finding connectivity, with people unable to apply for jobs online, research new opportunities, connect with health insurance, get college financial aid or do homework.” (Kang, paragraph 9). Kang highlights these statistics by taking personal quotes from other unemployed persons in the Hope Village area and noting their lack of internet provides them with extra obstacles in their everyday life. Kang ends her article by looking towards the future and highlighting real efforts actively combating the digital divide. Nonprofits as well as the city are starting and funding initiatives to bring Wi-Fi and computers to those in need. However, providing Wi-Fi is only half the battle. “People require training on how to use technology, and they need computers or other devices.”, Kang notes (Kang, paragraph 13). “You can’t just provide access and say you’re done,” said Diana J. Nucera, director of the community technology project.

RS 1: Las Milpas

‘Closing The Digital Divide’: Connecting The Least Connected In Texas

Brandon Marquez, a high school student in Las Milpas like many of his fellow neighbors does not have access to Internet at home. Flahive points out that if Marquez needs to complete an assignment for school he has to go to the public library. If this is not possible then Marquez has to find a 24-hour restaurant that has Wi-Fi. Fahive reports that the Texas-Mexico border is an area, where Marquez lives, is one of the least connected in the states. The Federal Reserve Bank reports that less than 60 percent of these people have access to Internet within their homes. According to the superintendent of Marquez’s school district there are attempts at changing this statistic, which includes connecting “50 students to broadband internet for free as a year-long pilot program for something much larger.” It is stated that there are many neighborhoods with poor infrastructure, which contributes to difficulties with Internet installation, along the border. These are called colonias. Colonias have been mentioned to have been “absorbed into the city” so that infrastructure issues may be addressed. But the main thing people are waiting for, according to Flahive, is the Internet. It is noted that in Las Milpas “ nearly half the people live under the federal poverty line”. There has been difficulty getting people to get wireless internet and it is mentioned by installers that this could be due to a person’s immigration status or maybe a warrant status or even a language barrier that is unable to be bridged. Installers also report that the structure of homes at times cause difficulty installing internet due to “The wood on the house [being] so bad [that they have] to use different screws and bits to secure it to the masonry”. The Federal Reserve Bank believes that there is a way to help neighborhoods like the ones in Las Milpas with issues dealing with access to health care to job training as well as education. It is believed that providing access to the Internet will do so. It is reported that with the help of the Federal Reserve, banks, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the school district, the city plans on building its own fiber-optic network. This network would connect 19 city buildings, 27 schools, as well as a public library. They are to be placed near low-income neighborhoods. Once this is accomplished the city may be able to expand free Wi-Fi and explore leasing the cable to Internet providers who can sell low-cost Internet to lower income communities.

RS 1: Chicago

Study Shows Chicago Slow in Bridging Digital Divide

Chicago, Illinois is one of the country’s largest, most diverse cities. In an article titled Study Shows Chicago Slow in Bridging Digital Divide, Chicago Tribune reporter Marwa Eltagouri outlines the problems that come with the digital divide in one of America’s most populous cities. According to Karen Mossberger – an Arizona State University professor and researcher on the study – Chicago is “the only major city to have internet usage data available on a neighborhood level.” Eltagouri states how such detailed information on the population can be extremely helpful for studying the effects of the digital divide in neighborhoods. “In 2013, broadband adoption on home computers and devices was lowest in neighborhoods such as West Garfield Park, Burnside, and Brighton Park,” with “fewer than 45 percent of homes [having] broadband access.” These Chicago neighborhoods stated in the article – West Garfield Park, Burnside, and Brighton Park – are primarily African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Further, the data provided on these neighborhoods is consistent with nationwide averages (as of 2013) as “just 55 percent of Latinos [and] 66 percent of blacks [have adopted broadband].” These statistics on minority neighborhoods vary drastically from Chicago’s “[city] average of 70 percent” and “81 percent of whites” connected to the internet. Eltagouri explains how “between 2008 and 2013, several [disadvantaged] neighborhoods… ha[d] made strides in bridging the ‘digital divide’.” However, the pace at which impoverished neighborhoods have increased widespread internet access has slowed in recent years, especially until the time the article was written, in April 2016. Many people in pooper neighborhoods have ameliorated their disconnection from the internet by using smartphones, which could be one reason for the surprising divide in broadband internet access. As “affordability” is largely a reason for the polarized results of internet accessibility, Mossberger states that “[people] accessing the Internet through their phones don’t have to buy a separate device” such as a laptop or home computer, creating no need to “[pay] an additional bill for broadband internet.” Eltagouri uses this idea to attempt to justify why only “45 perfect of homes had broadband access” in lower-income neighborhoods. The Tribune states another problem with this though, as some families would be “[limited] to their public library hours and the basic Internet searches they’re able to perform on their phones.”


The Digital Divide and What To Do With It

In the article, “The Digital Divide and What To Do With It,” Hargittai identifies the rapid rise in Internet users as between 1994 and 2001, the adult US population on-line soared from approximately 13% to 55%. The rise was not experienced equally across however as Asian Americans and Caucasians as the only races to hold rates above 45%. Hargattai’s overall argument focuses on strengthening technological skills and education rather than simply supplying the infrastructure. She begins by outlining four determinants that sum to one’s skill or “the ability to use new technology efficiently and effectively” (829).

First, technical means and access to high quality devices are greatly beneficial in enhancing educational levels, and individuals with these resources “are much more likely to exhibit high levels of sophistication” (829). Secondly, many people may have access to computers through local libraries but do not own the technology themselves. Those without personal computers can experience restrictions such as lengthy wait times or limited access. Hargattai then discusses how people’s social network leads to their technological skill. People that are surrounded by new gadgets and users are much more likely to adopt the technology themselves. The last determinant is experience; people that have invested time into learning each feature are “expected to be better at finding information on-line” (830) and more able to take full advantage of what each innovation has to offer. Each of these factor amounts to a person’s skill or their technological proficiency. Hargattai asserts “the prevailing approach to the digital divide focuses on a binary class of… those who are connected from those who do not have access to the medium” (837), but the attention should center on educating and training the public. She compares Internet policy to reading from the perspective that “children are not given a book in first grade and expected to read” (837). The need to expand technological access around the country is essential but without the requisite training the medium cannot be truly effective.

RS 1: Washington

In the New York Times article “Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says”, the author Steve Lohr’s main point can be shown by this quote from the sixth paragraph, “Over all, Microsoft concluded that 162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds, while the F.C.C. says broadband is not available to 24.7 million Americans.” Lohr throughout the article pushes the point to readers that the government is not saying the truth at all about how accessible broadband internet service is for the entire U.S. population. He specifically calls out the Federal Communications Commission, or F.C.C, with his example of Ferry County in Washington. He states how the only area is a small town within the county, Republic, Washington and how once you “go beyond the cluster of blocks in the small town, and the high-speed service drops off quickly.” Lohr goes on to use this example to show more discrepancies of the FCC’s data by stating, “In Ferry County, for example, Microsoft estimates that only 2 percent of people use broadband service, versus the 100 percent the federal government says have access to the service.” The reason behind why Lohr feels so passionate about bringing the lies of the federal government to light, is because “Accurate measurements on the reach of broadband matter because the government’s statistics are used to guide policy and channel federal funding for underserved areas.” Without these accurate measurements, Lohr believes that those underserved and low income areas of the US will remain in their current states, and not have the abilities to improve their lives. This digital divide goes beyond having access to technological advancements, as Lohr points out how “[there is a] strong correlation between joblessness and low rates of broadband use. The unemployment rate in Ferry County, for example, is 11 percent, more than twice the statewide   rate.” He goes on to add how students and business owners rely on the WiFi from local restaurants or public libraries in order to do their own work. All of these points inevitably come together to showcase how Lohr believes the federal government isn’t doing all that they can in order to give the same opportunities to everyone in the US to have the best lives possible, and that one main example of this is from how government agencies, such as the FCC, don’t accurately show the correct statistics regarding broadband reach, as shown by this quote “The issue with the current F.C.C. statistics, experts say, is that they rely on simplistic surveys of internet service providers that inherently overstate coverage. For example, if one business in an area has broadband service, then the entire area is typically considered to have broadband service available.”


Contemporary Digital Divides In The United States

In modern day, the internet plays a major role in our everyday lives. The internet is an open encyclopedia of knowledge that allows individuals to collaborate in many different ways. Over the years, the internet has “transformed from an instrument used by a small minority to an essential tool deployed by the vast majority of the population” (Warf). Throughout Barney Warf’s article “Contemporary Digital Divides in the United States” he examines our countries differences in internet inequality and what factors contribute to how the digital divide has changed over time. The internet attracts a broad range of people for a variety of different purposes, but it is very evident that a significant percent of our world lacks access to internet activity. Warf states that those “excluded from cyberspace fail to benefit from the advantages that it could provide for them” (Warf). For example, some states across our country have a significantly small percent of their population that has access to the internet. He states that “New England, the northeastern seaboard, and the Pacific Coast [exhibit] high rates of connectivity and substantially lower rates throughout the South”. He claims that the South has such low rates because it is “frequently characterized by lower average incomes and educational levels”. Additionally, he refers to an external source that points out the differences between rural and urban areas. The article, “Spatial differences in Broadband Access” states that urban areas are “overserved” while the rural areas “lack easy access”. This source further suggests that rural areas are frequently areas with little internet access because “their populations are distributed over broad areas, [they] are frequently poorer, older, and less educated than those in urban areas” (Grubesic & Murray 2002). In addition, Warf discusses the gender gap among internet users. He states that in the late nineteenth century men were the largest users of the internet, but as years passed the gap deteriorated. He claims that “the declining gender gap speaks to the increasing use of cyberspace among younger women, particularly the well-educated” (Warf). According to Warf, “socio-economic variables such as education and income, namely, class, are persistent markers of the digital divide in the United States”. A survey that showed the growth in the United States internet users showed that the poor and the uneducated exhibited the lowest percentage of internet access while the successful and well educated showed the highest usage rates and highest amount of growth over time. Even though I pointed out only just a few of Warf’s claims, it is evident that this article provided insightful information on the digital divide of our country.

RS 1: Detroit

Detroit’s Digital Divide Is Leaving Nearly Half the City Offline

The digital divide in Detroit is among the worst in the developed world. Trevor Bach states that approximately 40 percent of the households in Detroit aren’t connected to the Internet. Bill Callahan, the director of the Connect Your Community nonprofit organization in Detroit, claims in the article that this issue of non-connectivity has become more than just a “great barrier” but rather a civil rights issue or even so far as to say the “cost of the Internet is the new poll tax”. Bach highlights how service providers in Detroit have been picking and choosing which neighborhoods to provide service to. By enlarge the ones that are chosen are the higher-class and/or white neighborhoods. Callahan also highlights how AT&T has systematically discriminated against the poorer neighborhoods by intentionally putting up cell towers and other infrastructure in wealthier neighborhoods and leaving the poorer neighborhoods to rot. Callahan calls this “digital redlining” and it has split Detroit nearly in half. The article cites a recent census made public by the FCC that claims “100,000 Detroit households had no internet connection of any kind, including mobile. Fifty-seven percent of households had no hardline connection, and 70 percent of the city’s school-age children had no internet access at home.” Due to the fact that many of these children don’t have internet access, they must go to the library to do their homework sometimes, as Bach states, “in the cold or in the snow or in the rain” just so they can do their homework for the day. On top of the struggle to get there, many times the library is too full and those who are using the computers will use them until the library closes. There are now some non-profits as well as community led movements to start funding infrastructure in these poor neighborhoods, but their scale is so small the difference is hardly noticeable in the big picture. Without the help of large ISP’s, Detroit won’t get the internet it needs and will continue to stay the most violent and most impoverished city in the United States.

RS 1: Mississippi

The Digital Divide in Mississippi

In “The Digital Divide in Mississippi”, Dr. Roberto Gallardo argues the severity of the digital divide within the state of Mississippi, emphasizing this through displaying data regarding broadband access. Dr. Gallardo goes on to offer strategies to bridge the digital divide, such as “loans and grants that can help providers upgrade or increase their broadband availability and speed” (2) and “digital literacy workshops.” (2) The article begins with the definition of the term “digital divide” and the negative impacts of this phenomenon. Two aspects of the digital divide were mentioned: “lack of access (including affordability) and refusal to adopt the technology.” (1) Dr. Gallardo goes on to then mention broadband as a method of measurement of the digital divide. He defines broadband, then demonstrates through Figure 1 and Figure 2 the spread of access to broadband both statewide and countywide. Dr. Gallardo argues that because Figure 1 demonstrates that “Mississippi ranked last in the nation in the availability of fixed broadband technology” (1), the digital divide remains a prominent issue. Through Figure 2, Dr. Gallardo mentions that “east Mississippi had much lower fixed broadband adoption as of December 2014.” (2). A few solutions were then mentioned to tackle the digital divide of Mississippi. The first solution was to entice Internet providers through federal loans and grants to introduce technology to the areas in Mississippi that lack the Internet. Another solution, developed to tackle lack of information regarding the importance of the internet, was to introduce digital literacy workshops. Dr. Gallardo mentions that “once Mississippians see the relevance and usefulness of digital technology, adoption rates should increase—assuming the technology is available and affordable.” (2) As a conclusion to the article, Dr, Gallardo mentions that “much remains to be done to narrow the digital divide” (2), but he remains hopeful “that better understanding of these issues and the value of digital technology will jumpstart needed conversations on how to bridge this divide.” (2)

RS 1: Georgia

Rural Fulton County Offers Glimpse of Georgia’s Digital Divide

Though the internet grows as an increasingly essential part of life, there are still places around America that lack the necessary infrastructure to put its citizens ahead of the divide. According to Tasnim Shamma in his article, “Rural Fulton County Offers Glimpse of Georgia’s Digital Divide”, almost “60 percent of the residents” in Fulton County, Georgia are deprived of access to consistent internet (1). Just like the highway splitting the poor and the rich in Austin, there exists a clear cut difference in the county itself where those “on the right… can order gigabit service” at upscale homes and businesses, while those on the left side of the road have no options whatsoever, says resident and start-up founder Tim Cailloux (5). Another resident, Tom Swanston, goes on to mention that internet service is like electricity and it’s “not an option anymore to not have [it]” (8). He uses the internet for his work, checking emails, his website, and after his wife came into some recent medical complications, he also uses it to stay updated with his doctor. Tim Cailloux founded Southern Internet specifically for people like Swanston and his neighbors, so they can shop online or stay updated on health care, both a long distance away from them. If governments in towns like this fail to provide their population with internet, the region “[will dwindle] and may not be able to recover”, according to Christopher Mitchell (17). Mitchell says that smaller internet companies are actually doing more than larger companies to help the people out due to the issue of local pride, but the real challenge that remains is creating a large infrastructure, which will require subsidies. However, the town has been starting to make changes. It has just introduced a bill that will make it easier for companies to install the latest generation cell phone towers, and members of Georgia Senate, such as Rep. Gooch have also tried sponsoring a bill that will allow electric member co-ops to start having internet as an option. Gooch believes in these EMCs’ potential since he reasons they’re “there to provide a service” rather than just profit (22). However, Gooch also mentions that in order for places like Fulton County to increase internet access, “we’re going to have to put money behind as well” (25). Due to these circumstances, though bridging the digital divide is a top priority, it will still most likely be a few years away for this area.