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.

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