There’s been a lot of focus on the throngs of consumers lining up to buy the new iPhone 5 (“iPhone 5 launch draws Apple fans worldwide,” 9/21). But there has been far less coverage over those who aren’t lining up because they lack access to technology and broadband.
The good news is that privately owned and financed broadband networks have made high-speed Internet available to 95 percent of U.S. households, at an average speed of 14.6 megabits per second. Most can choose from at least six broadband providers.
But one-third of American households – disproportionately poor and minority – do not subscribe to broadband. For them, the digital ceiling means fewer job and educational opportunities, less information and leaner entertainment options.
Major cable companies like Comcast have teamed up with the Federal Communications Commission to slay this seemingly intractable problem. Comcast’s Internet Essentials program provides heavily discounted broadband Internet service and low-cost computers to households whose children qualify for the National School Lunch Program. In one year alone, Internet Essentials has brought 400,000 low-income Americans onto the information superhighway – more individuals than make up a mid-sized city.
While it’s nice to marvel at the sizzle of the latest gadget, it’s also important to recognize that not all Americans have crossed the bridge into the 21st Century, that our economic productivity counts on their doing so — and that without community-corporate partnerships, the gap will not close quickly enough to provide meaningful change.
Alma Morales Riojas
President & CEO
MANA, A National Latina Organization