Fighting to Close the Digital Divide

The battle to provide Internet access to everyone continues.

The digital divide isn't just something that happens in third world countries. It's alive and well here in the United States too. One way of measuring the digital divide - those with access to technology and those without it - is by identifying the availability and speed of Internet access.

While poor Internet access in rural areas is often attributed to the shortcomings of the physical components, such as old or insufficient infrastructure, more populous areas also have access issues. These problems often correspond with income levels within a community. Areas of cities and other communities with lower household incomes frequently have poorer Internet access too.

Wired's Issie Lapowsky takes a look at the efforts non-profit organization EveryoneOn is making to help provide low-cost Internet access. The group recently worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to set up access for an area in Oklahoma. With the changing focus of government initiatives, the group is seeking to take on more of the work themselves. While they still hope to work with HUD, this will also enable them to continue working on this project, even if government resources are discontinued.

Supporting Web Links
  Discussion Topics/Activities
  1. Discuss the concepts of the digital divide with the class. Since economic factors play a role in this, is it possible that lack of Internet access might be a problem in your community? Poll the class to see what methods they are using to access the Internet.  Consider visiting the BroadbandNow site (from the Supporting Web Links section) to see how your state measures up. Scroll down the BroadbandNow home page to reach the “Broadband in the US” section or add the name of your state to the URL to reach a page providing various stats about Internet coverage in your state and individual counties.
  2. Divide students into small groups and ask each group to select a state, other than their own, and research the status of Internet access in that state. Students might use one of the states featured in the Supporting Web Links section or the BroadbandNow site to get started. What are the demographics of the selected state (i.e. ages, education level, income, etc.)? Students should attempt to identify areas of the state with lower Internet access rates. What, if anything, is being done to address the problem in this state? Each group should create a brief presentation to share with the class.
  3.  As an individual project, ask students to visit the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (link found in the Supporting Web Links section). This group is working to ensure that everyone will be able to access the Internet equally. Students should research this group or one of their many affiliates (found in the Affiliates section). How is this organization working to close the digital divide? What contributions are they making? What is their level of commitment? Are students surprised that this organization is involved or does it seem like a good fit? Students should write a brief summary of their findings.


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