Connecting Across The Digital Divide

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23 million people in rural America don’t have broadband connections. Lots of urban residents simply can't afford the service. And it’s leaving them behind. We’ll dig in.

(Tookapic via Pexels)
(Tookapic via Pexels)

The business of America is moving online. Just think of retail, where Amazon is gobbling up the world. Then there’s banking, bill-paying, homework, health services, and on and on. But lots of America still doesn’t have broadband Internet access. Wide rural areas, not on. Two thirds of Manhattan, no access from home. The country made electricity and telephone access a national priority. Should it do the same for fast Internet? This hour On Point: broadband access in the USA. — Tom Ashbrook


Clare Malone, senior political writer at FiveThirtyEight. (@ClareMalone)

Betsy Blecha, Jackson County Commissioner in Colorado. On Point listener who proposed today's topic via the On Point Listens page.

Sharon Strover, professor of communication and director of the Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin. (@UTsharon)

From Tom's Reading List

FiveThirtyEight: The Worst Internet In America — "The beauty of Saguache County can be an inconvenient one, though, particularly in the 21st century: It has some of the worst internet in the country. That’s in part because of the mountains and the isolation they bring. Saguache (sah-WATCH’) is nestled in between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan ranges, a four-hour drive southwest of Denver. Its population of 6,300 is spread across 3,169 square miles 7,800 feet above sea level, but on land that is mostly flat, so you can almost see the full scope of two mountain ranges as you drive the county’s highways: the San Juans, melted into soft brown peaks to the west, and the Sangre de Cristos, sharp, black and snowcapped, thrusting almost violently upward to the east."

Pew Research Center: Digital divide persists even as lower-income Americans make gains in tech adoption — "Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone. Nearly half don’t have home broadband services or a traditional computer. And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, many of these devices are nearly ubiquitous among adults from households earning $100,000 or more a year."

U.S. News & World Report: Technology Is Improving, So Why Is Rural Broadband Access Still a Problem? — "It is still worth noting, however, that even if rural broadband infrastructure were exactly the same as in urban areas, there would still be a "digital divide" in adoption rates, because rural populations are older, less educated and have lower income. Other programs, such as the recent Lifeline modernization (which will provide a monthly $9.25 subsidy for low-income consumers to buy telecommunications services – including broadband) will seek to address this more demand-oriented aspect."

This program aired on August 2, 2017.


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