Add news
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020
News Every Day |

Digital Redlining: ISPs Widening The Digital Divide

As school districts are facing the new school year under conditions drastically changed by COVID-19, the digital divide is deepening education inequality in the US.

Many families struggle to meet the requirements of remote schooling as millions of students around the US lack access to a broadband internet connection. We’ve learned in pandemic times that our health depends on those of others and we are only as strong as our weakest links. Still, inequalities arising from the lack of internet and technological access mean that online learning poses insurmountable challenges to many households worldwide, leaving many children behind.

Rachel Cooper, a teacher in rural Sacramento Valley reported to the Atlantic, “It’s rough, some kids are using their phones to log into class, but the screens are too small to do work on. Some kids’ internet cuts out in the middle of class, and others don’t log on at all. I’ve had several students already say that they were really nervous they were going to fall farther behind in a specific subject because they think distance learning is going to be really difficult.”

Many Households Left Behind

While the US is considered to be at the forefront of technological innovation, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that 21 million Americans lack a high-speed internet connection. In fact, researchers at Broadband Now found that the actual number is double the FCC’s figure. The disparity in the FCC’s numbers is a direct result of relying on internet service providers (ISPs) to self-report. This allows providers to claim they serve the population of an entire block even if they serve just one household on that block.

The right to internet access was historically never prioritized by the US government, and was mostly left to be managed by private ISPs. ISPs gained even more freedom under the Trump administration, when federal regulation got looser. In 2017, net neutrality regulations were abolished, allowing broadband companies to decide where to build out their infrastructure and how much to charge for their services. This was the reversal of the 2015 decision by the Obama administration to have stronger oversight over ISPs and it generally reflected the Trump administration’s view that regulation by the market will lead to better results and yield more innovation.

This decision, however, largely led to systemic issues like digital redlining, a practice of creating and perpetuating inequities between already marginalized groups specifically through the use of digital technologies. An example of digital redlining is when ISPs deliberately won’t serve certain geographical areas and low-income neighborhoods because they are not considered profitable.

“Unlike rural areas, where providers receive a subsidy to serve a high-cost area, no subsidies exist to encourage providers to serve or upgrade urban neighborhoods despite the perceived lack of profit,” Gene Kimmelman, senior advisor at the think tank Public Knowledge testified. “Either we should build new programs explicitly designed to create competing providers in these underserved neighborhoods or legislation should require universal service standards or other anti-redlining measures enforced at either the state level or by the FCC.”

Some of the unconnected families live in areas that are not serviced by providers, but others simply can’t afford to pay for an internet connection. The average cost of internet service in the United States is about $68 per month (compared to Europe’s average of $44) which is simply a cost that not all households can bear.

Short-term Solutions for Bridging the Gap

At the advent of COVID-19 and remote schooling, many school districts organized Wi-Fi-equipped buses to drive around areas where disconnected students live. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Public Schools with the help of the City of Albuquerque were providing “drive-up mobile Wi-Fi units at a number of APS schools and other public locations.” These drive-up mobile units were usable up to a 100 feet radius, which meant that internet users could remain in their cars to aid social distancing.

Some school districts have also tried to subsidize Internet access for disconnected students, often with funds from the government's $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package under the CARES Act. Additionally, many school districts have purchased and distributed 4G wireless hotspots or paid for discounted wired Internet services for low-income families, such as Comcast's $9.95 per month Internet Essentials package, which now connects approximately 200,000 students. However, these efforts are mostly initiated by school districts and ISPs “free” offers are usually limited and capped, thus sub-par to the realistic broadband needs of students learning online.

In Need of Long-term Regulation

These measures taken by school districts are good short-term fixes, they will not solve the digital divide for the future when online schooling will be a common practice.

Long-term solutions need federal or municipal investments and have to come from non-commercial efforts. For example, Congress could encourage municipal broadband to intervene where private companies do not see worthwhile business opportunities. However, competition between ISPs and municipal broadband networks is limited by state law in more than half of US states, and municipal broadband can not be set up in areas that are already served by one private ISP.

This means that many communities are left with ISPs that provide poor quality and expensive services because of the lack of competition, and are unable to pursue municipal broadband because their area is considered “served”. Some states also require municipal broadband services to match prices of the local ISP, further limiting competition for private providers.

Global Outlook

According to a new UNICEF report, 463 million children globally were unable to access remote learning when schools closed due to COVID-19. The report highlights significant inequality across regions: sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected, where at least half of all students cannot be reached with remote learning.

The governments of South Korea and Sweden are building national broadband infrastructures and letting ISPs use them. In the US, essential services like broadband connections are left to be managed by private ISPs, leading to whole areas and neighborhoods with no or poor internet connection. What will be the long-term systemic consequences of children in rural and low-income households struggling to keep up with online curricula?

Andrea Kelemen is a Berlin-based writer and content strategist exploring topics related to technology ethics and the cultural effects of digital media for FairShake. IRL, she likes swimming, dancing and deconstructing objectifying dualisms with both human and non-human agents.




Read also

NHS staff to get pay RISE but millions of public sector workers face pay freeze

Mike Tyson can thrill boxing world again aged 54 if he is as dedicated to comeback as Tyson Fury, says Ben Davison

4th Generation Echo Dot reduced by 42% for Black Friday 2020



News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on Today24.pro




Today24.pro — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here