Bridging CT’s digital divide starts with the public internet

Today you opened this article. Maybe on your smartphone, laptop or tablet. It’s probably connected to Wi-Fi or using cellular data. Did you have to think about your Internet connection? If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky.

A Federal Communications Commission 2021 Report found that nearly 21.3 million Americans are unable to purchase broadband Internet. A data evaluation by third parties estimated that number to be closer to 42 million. Unfortunately, these disparities disproportionately affect low-income, low-educated people of color. A PEW Research Center Study in 2015, found that only 54% of African-American households and 50% of Hispanic households had access to reliable broadband.

Here in Connecticut, 321,000 households, or about 23%, do not have high-speed Internet access at home. This includes more than 110,000 children under the age of 17. With the shift to digital classrooms and distance learning, this is actively hampering their education, leading to absenteeism and low pass rates. The global shutdowns related to COVID-19 have only highlighted these disparities. Many children have been frustrated as schools shift to fully remote learning.

There has been a 165% increase in broadband consumption between 2017 and 2021, demonstrating overwhelming demand for the internet in our digital world, according to OpenVault. Universal Internet access not only improves our children’s education, it also provides access to health care via telehealth for all ages and a way for families to purchase government-sponsored health insurance as well. government. It offers adults the opportunity to apply for jobs and even work remotely. It gives seniors the opportunity to check their e-mails and keep up to date with current events.

Public Internet can take many forms, such as fiber optics or free public Wi-Fi zones with “open access”. While municipalities should certainly provide effective security measures and privacy policies, the benefits of providing all children and adults with equal access to the Internet outweigh the initial infrastructure costs.

Closure of the Numeric fraction and the homework gap ultimately provides a foundation for the children, adults and seniors in our community to thrive.

Christie Devoe DO is a resident physician at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

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