Lack of broadband, hardware, skills create digital divide

Austin Bell, Technology Editor, Puma Press

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Social media, online Internet access, and the need for computer skills have become essential in U.S. society today.

Statisa, an Internet statistics company, reports that according to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, the average U.S. adult, 18 and over, uses electronic media, including TV, radio, smart phones, computers, etc., 11-plus hours a day. Two of those hours are on phone or computer.

But what about those Americans who do not have access to smart phones and computers? With the prospect of having millions of devices connected, those without computers, smartphones and even Internet connection suffer. As technology expands its reach, the digital divide widens between those with Web savvy and access and those without.

What Is Lost

The so called digital divide stems from various problems, such as socioeconomic conditions, skill barriers and even racial differences, but there are a multitude of non-profit and government organizations trying to close the gap and help millions on the outside attain Internet ownership and literacy.

The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers has released showing median income, education level and Internet adoption in select cities and how people are affected. Those with less than a high school diploma are less likely than high school graduates to adopt the Internet at 43.8 percent. Having at least a high school diploma raises that number up by almost 20 percent in achieving Internet ownership.

Having some literacy of the Internet affects adoption rates as well. Approaching the Internet without any foreknowledge can be completely staggering, especially if the user missed the stages when the Internet became ubiquitous through commercialization of the Web in the late ‘90s or the rise of smartphone technology in the past 10 years.

In order to rectify the situation, more technical trainers are needed, who have not only the ability to teach others but also the skill set to preserve today’s knowledge of computers and also to prepare for the future. Also, an increase in training organizations in and out of the community would help, such as community colleges and skill centers. 

“Today high speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.””

— President Obama

A Broadband Divide

Also within the digital divide, there is a broadband divide. Let’s say there our two students who go to the same school that has complete Wi-Fi access. When they reach home they each experience wildly different levels of broadband quality, depending on where they live and household income. This is a clear analogy of the way the broadband divide works, while a download speed of 10 mega bytes per second has been the standard for a while now, more complex programs are being built, websites have denser information and music, and movies are being made at a much higher quality. The disparity between Internet connections’ speed can have an impact on access and affect one’s ability to learn and experience entertainment.

This divide also stems from the companies deploying wired and wireless networks, such Comcast, Time Warner Cable and even Century Link cable services in Arizona. They all offer different packages with varying levels of Internet capability at varying prices. The income of a household can influence the level of access purchased. In an Economic Advisers Issue Briefing, The Council of Economic Advisers an agency that instructs the President on economic policy reference President Obama and the steps he is taking to ensure a uniform service. “to ensure fast and reliable broadband is available to more Americans at lower cost, including efforts to promote community-based broadband and a call for State and local governments to roll back short-sighted regulations that restrict competition.”

Computers and the Internet, while having a big impact on business and education, can also enhance the quality of a person’s life, especially in the 21st century. In today’s world, the Internet isn’t a luxury but a necessity for a safe and fulfilling life.

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Lack of broadband, hardware, skills create digital divide