The Digital Divide In America

In the 21st century there is an ever-growing moral debate on why some people do not have the access to the Internet and communication technologies others do. Is there anything that society can do to help bring these communication challenged places up to par?

The digital divide is defined as the “gap between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels in regards to opportunities access information and use communication technologies (ICTs) and their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities” (OECD, 2011). Lei & Zhou believe the digital divide “refers to the technology capacity gap between those who have accesses to rich digital information and those who have not” (Lei & Zhou.45). This divide is not only found internationally but is ever apparent domestically for all nations. The OECD compiled a list of indicators as to why this divide occurs. Telecommunication infrastructures must be available geographically for any communication technology use( OCED,5). Still, there are societies that do not have the opportunity to access the internet with these infrastructures in place. Computer availability along with access to the Internet are outlined as readiness factors for the integration of modern day communication use. Domestically, income and education are the two biggest determinants of communication technology opportunities. Education has a direct correlation on income level, which can determine an individual’s access to communication technologies.

In the United States of America, the digital divide is alive. Many employers require you to apply online for the opportunity to get a job. Every year America is implementing the Internet and communication technologies into education systems to help children and adults learn. Access to high-speed Internet is growing increasingly into a necessity not a luxury. In 2013, the New York Post ran an article describing how middle school students in a small rural Alabama had to use the local McDonald’s Wi-Fi network to finish homework once the library closed (Moyes & company, 2013). Increasingly, without Internet access it impossible to own a business and even get adequate government benefits without going online (Moyes & company, 2013). Internet companies use an expensive fiber optic wire to deliver Internet access. To bring this to rural areas would call for the digging up of the copper wire lines and replacing them with fiber-optic ones. For 80% of Americans this process cuts out much of the competition for Internet access, their only choice is to sign up for the local cable company (Moyes & company, 2013). A study done in 2014 by the Open Technology Institute from the New America Foundation shows that American’s pay more for slower Internet compared to other countries. In New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, Dc the cost for 500-megabit connection for a month is $300. While in Seoul, South Korea around 1000-megabit connection run at $30 a month. The same connection can be found in Hong Kong for $37 and in Tokyo for $39. (CNN Wire, 2014)

The cause of the digital divide in America can be narrowed down to money. It is a huge expense to implement fiber-optic cables nation-wide. Many call for citizen to pressure local and national governments to bring Internet access to all Americans. The government in Lafayette, Louisiana decided to build every home in business in town a fiber-optic wire to access the Internet (Moyes & company, 2013). The community built its own fiber optic networks through its municipal the power and water company. This way is wholesale Internet that allows the hospital, police stations, and other institutions to have a low rate connection to the Internet. The FCC’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, claims he will work to break the hold of big companies on Internet access.

Citations

  • Americans pay more for slower Internet. (2014,). CNN Wire
  • Lei, J., & Zhou, J. (2012). Digital Divide: How Do Home Internet Access and Parental Support Affect Student Outcomes?. Education (Basel) 2:45-53/ DOI:10.3390/educ2010045
  • Moyers & company: Who’s widening America’s digital divide? Moyers, B. D., Public Affairs Television (Firm), Films Media Group and Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Firm) (Directors). (2013).[Video/DVD] New York, N.Y: Films Media Group.
  • OECD iLibrary. (2001). Understanding the digital divide
  • Troianovski, A. (2013, ). The web-deprived study at McDonald’s. The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition
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