Los Angeles, California — According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of Americans now go online mostly using a smartphone, and these devices are increasingly cited as a reason for not having a high-speed internet connection at home.
“Indeed, significant progress has been made in narrowing the Digital Divide in California over the last 10 years. However, most disadvantaged populations still remain unconnected or under-connected. These residents also often are confronted with an interrelated set of factors and forces that constitute a huge barrier to overcome and escape a “wall of poverty”, resulting in these households being left behind at an accelerating pace that stunts and stifles California’s global potential,” said CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak.
In 2009, the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Task Force reported that approximately 70 percent of teachers assign homework requiring access to the Internet. In addition, about 65 percent of students used the Internet at home to complete homework. This could include submitting assignments, connecting with teacher/student discussion boards, working on shared documents, group projects and conducting online research for assignments. But access to the Internet at home is not only for students. Parents too rely on the Internet to be fully informed on their child’s academic performance, with many schools turning to online grading systems and communicating with family members in other parts of the world.
A study conducted by the Field Research Corporation 2016-17 Annual Survey shows that broadband adoption (use of high‐speed Internet access at home) is at 84 percent statewide (of which 14 percent is smartphone only), up 29 percent since 2008. Broadband adoption increased from 33 percent to 74 percent for low‐income households, from 34 percent to 80 percent for Latino families, and from 36 percent to 71 percent for people with disabilities.
While these increases indicate significant progress, the sad news is that 25 percent of the households (a full quarter of the population) remain on the other side of the Digital Divide. These households are mostly in urban poor neighborhoods or remote rural areas already suffering from other socio-economic hardships.
The Digital Divide is another manifestation of the “Economic Divide” or “Opportunity Divide”. Low‐income families without home broadband access (which requires a computing device and Digital Literacy) can’t apply for most jobs, take an online course to improve workforce skills, bank online, access online public services, or communicate with their child’s school.
Students without high‐speed Internet access at home can’t complete homework, do research for assignments, or even apply for college. This Digital Divide in the Latino and black communities contribute to the Achievement Gap in schools.
The decision of the California Public Utilities Commission to establish CETF as a public benefit from corporate consolidations was a pivotal moment in the fight towards rights for access to information. This placed CETF as a Catalyst for Action.
For a decade, the California Emerging Technology Fund stepped closer to its mission with the cooperation of partners and an extensive network of community-based organizations, CETF has deep and wide on-the-ground experience about “what works” to close this Digital Divide.
If anybody living in California, regardless of sex, age, or immigration status has questions about finding low-cost computer training classes, affordable computers or choosing a Home Internet provider, call 1-844-841-INFO (4636) to talk with a member at one of CETF’s trusted community-based organizations.
The representative at this number will help callers sign up for low-cost Home Internet with the provider and avoid being overcharged. Caller’s will not be asked for proof of income or other inconvenient information.
For more information about low-cost Internet providers and CETF’s current effort to close the Digital Divide, please visit this website.