Detroit’s Digital Divide

It’s always good to get from Washington. It’s even better when you get to visit one of America’s great metropolitan areas. This week, we have had the satisfaction of visiting the Motor City: Detroit, Michigan.

In the mid-20th century, Detroit’s economy got a boost from a new network of highways that motivated a spike in auto manufacturing from eight million units within 1950 to a peak of fifteen million in the 1970s. Today, new broadband networks are creating increased opportunities for the people of Detroit, but they are also raising new challenges. The most immediate challenge is that an undesirable number of Detroit residents are being bypassed by the broadband revolution. Detroit’s digital divide is among the most extreme within the nation. Thirty-eight percent of its inhabitants do not have broadband at home. For low-income households, the percentage offline is really a whopping 63 percent.

The costs of digital exclusion are high and are obtaining higher. In 2015, if you cannot get online, you will not be able to apply for a work at most large businesses. We have reports of students heading to McDonald’s not merely to buy a value meal, but to accomplish their homework over the free Wi-Fi network. Offline individuals also usually do not enjoy the health benefits offered by remote monitoring and other new technologies. One research estimates that broadband helps a typical U. S. consumer save $8, 800 a year by providing access to deals on goods and services, but most low-income inhabitants of Detroit are missing out. In essence this: If you are not connected to the Internet within 2015, you cannot participate fully within our economy and our democracy. This not only hurts the disconnected. Failing to fully optimize the talents associated with millions of Americans also hurts our own nation.

Today, we were honored to meet along with local leaders at Detroit’s Holly Ford Innovation Institute to discuss the impact of this digital divide within their community and identify possible solutions.

We spoke about ongoing efforts at the FCC to help close the broadband gaps in cities like Detroit. We discussed the Commission’s modernization of E-rate to support high-speed wired and wireless connectivity in our colleges and libraries and the establishment of the Connect America Fund, which will commit $9 billion over six yrs to expand broadband to almost 7. 5 million rural customers. Looking ahead, we spoke about the need to reboot the Commission’s Lifeline program for the Internet age, which will help connect low-income Americans.

But our main message to the people of Detroit was that the FCC cannot solve this problem on its own. There are multiple barriers in order to broadband adoption: from cost, in order to digital literacy to the fact that many People in america do not see the Internet as highly relevant to their lives. If we ever wish to achieve universal broadband in the United States, we are going to need a concerted effort from private sector leaders, the public interest community, and government officials at all levels.

Naturally , Detroit is also known as Hitsville, Oughout. S. A. and local legend Aretha Franklin nicely summed in the need for collective action, “Without one another, there ain’t nothing people can perform. ” It is best for us to come in order to terms about the costs of digital exclusion and work together in order to near these gaps. We are grateful towards the people of Detroit who turned out today to explore solutions in their community and look forward to engaging along with others across the nation to achieve online connectivity for all.


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