Despite the ubiquity of the Internet in the modern world, there are still many American households that remain unconnected. Those who live in poverty may not be able to access simple resources, such as online job search and (even more critically) school materials. This has contributed to what is now known as the “homework gap,” a situation in which children suffer academically compared to their peers because they do not have a home Internet connection. Approximately 55% of children under the age of 10, in low-income families, do not have Internet access at home and must instead rely upon school and public resources.
Obama’s ConnectHome Initiative
The Obama administration is seeking to resolve the inequality between poorer families when it comes to Internet connectivity by offering no cost or low cost Internet access through ConnectHome. This pilot project is being rolled out to nearly 300,000 households across America and is expected to vastly improve the access that poorer households have to modern resources.
“In this digital age when you can apply for a job, take a course, pay your bills, order pizza, even find a date, the Internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Obama in his announcement, underscoring the importance of Internet access in functioning on a day-to-day level in the modern world, and this also ties in to recent initiatives to have the Internet classified as a public utility.
Closing the Digital Divide
Due to socioeconomic inequalities, the homework gap affects minority families disproportionately, in addition to uneducated families. Closing this homework gap could be a beginning towards better equality. Though only those who are in lower economic brackets will be able to participate in the ConnectHome project, there are also initiatives aimed towards making broadband Internet access more affordable to all. Americans pay more for their broadband than many other countries despite being 25th in the world for broadband speed. This is in part due to the country’s sprawling infrastructure and in part due to localized monopolies which control pricing. A lack of competition reduces the incentive for broadband companies to offer affordable Internet access.
Thus, the FCC is seeking to increase competition within the broadband sector, which could ultimately lead to more affluent households acquiring Internet access at more reasonable choices. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic presidential candidate, has inquired with the FCC regarding broadband costs.
The ConnectHome initiative, and the related Lifeline program, will be instrumental in closing a gap that exists not only for children but for adults. In a digital age, everything from finding an apartment to getting a new job is now a process completed online. Even tax forms are submitted online. Households without connectivity are left stranded across a digital divide, without access to the resources that they could use to elevate their quality of life. ConnectHome will be able to resolve this problem for 275,000 families across America.