Left Behind in the Digital Age

An increasing number of urban poor are unable to afford internet access at home.  An article by the Huffington Post used a number of anecdotes to describe the dire situation.  The digitilization of education and job finding puts an added pressure to an already stressed-out demographic: low-income earners. 

While the article seems to focus a lot on the minority aspect of  those without cable, I think the biggest inhibitor to their internet access is their income.  There are a number of different causes for their inconvenience, many of which are out of their control: the job market, while slightly improving, is still not where many would like to see it; lack of competition among ISP providers allows an artificial inflation of Internet service; and many simply don’t have access to broadband. 

In the Bronx, the setting for one of the anecdotes, the medium household income is $34,000, with less than 40% of residents having in-home access to a broadband connection.  In this day and age, being offline is actually more costly than being online.  80% of the Fortune 500 companies only accept online applications.  As time is an incredibly valuable resource, many people who don’t have access to the internet don’t realize its value: an incredible increase in available time.  Instead of waiting on lines to pay bills or filling out applications for jobs all over the city, they could just as easily be doing this all from a computer, and doing more of it with the increased time.

Although a little off-topic, I believe a working internet connection can be one of the most vital educational tools that anyone can have.  Since those in lower-income areas typically aren’t as educated as other, higher-income areas, the internet is an amazing tool to level the playing field.  Education is key in advancement in the workplace.  Having constant access to emails, job applications, social networks, and the wealth of knowledge on the internet surely places those with a broadband connection at a distinct advantage over those without one.  I can’t believe that, in our current state of technology, that those who need an internet connection the most don’t have it. 

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