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Bridging the Digital Divide

Blog Category: Race and Economics in the Media

By: *Alison Palmer

With a continuous increase of everyday events and services taking place in cyberspace, the government, most recently the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), has been scrambling to determine the best way to bridge the digital divide.  The digital divide refers to the 40% of Americans lacking access to broadband internet, a divide leaving many low-income, black and Latino households on the side, lacking access due to the high cost of internet service.

The government has recognized that with jobs, classes and even many government services now taking place primarily on the internet, there is a need for all Americans to have access to this technology.  Despite this observation, past attempts to increase the availability and free or cheaper access to the internet have largely failed.  The FCC’s Chair, Julius Genachowski, stated earlier this year that it plans to apply its Lifeline program to broadband internet.  Lifeline is an FCC-run program seeking to ensure that phone-access is available to all Americans as it is an essential communication device and this same idea would be applied to providing internet access to those who cannot afford it.

There are anticipated problems with implementation of a Lifeline program to bridge the digital divide, though, including the FCC’s difficulty in regulating the internet as it is not deemed an “essential” communication device at this point, in 2012, despite its ubiquitous image.  Furthermore, concerns exist over whether the program can even reach enough people to bridge the divide, as only ten million participants are included in the current Lifeline phone program and approximately one hundred million Americans lack internet access.

Though smart phones have helped low-income individuals bridge the gap, a need continues for home-based internet access which provides a more participatory experience in society and democracy.   The FCC seems to be on the right track, but will it be enough?

 

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

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*Alison Palmer is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Alison Palmer, click here to view her page: Alison Palmer

To read more about the socioeconomic digital divide, read:

The FCC is Trying to Close the Digital Divide- Sort Of, by Jamilah King in Colorlines

 

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