This is in New York City, so I think we know this is probably even worse in other cities around the US, right?
“Unsurprisingly, New Yorkers with lower incomes are more likely to lack high-speed internet access: a 2019 study by comptroller Scott Stringer’s office found that 44% of New Yorkers in poverty have no broadband connection, double the percentage of those above the poverty line. But thanks to the vagaries of where cable has and hasn’t been laid, and other geographic quirks (cellphone service is notoriously dodgy in much of the hilly Bronx, for example), certain neighborhoods have ended up as particular broadband deserts.”
The article below focuses mostly on the homeless, and how without the ability to go to an office to access resources during COVID-19, they are expected to use access resources online and by phone. Which is difficult to do when you have very limited phone/data plans, and no access to WiFi anywhere. That’s a legitimate concern, but I want to also address the other part of this story, and that is the lack of reliable, and affordable, broadband. That lack of internet access is a problem.
Think about it, how many of us are working from home now, and even if we’ve returned to the office, we’re still working from home at times. The job requires us to be reachable, and responsive, even if it is Saturday, or well into the evening. Guess what that requires? Internet access. Don’t have it? Then you really aren’t capable of working the way we’ve all become used to working in our various industries, are you? To be a knowledge worker in the 21st century is to be connected through solid internet connections.
Which means that, depending on where you live, you have a pretty large personal cost that has to be taken on if you want to keep up with your coworkers, and if you don’t have the capability to do that? Guess you can’t compete.
That’s quite a lot of people left behind, for what seems like the lack of a simple thing. But a thing that alludes us because of the way the broadband industry currently exists. There are places in this country where getting broadband is actually impossible. There are plenty of others where it is cost-prohibitive and there is no competition. Either way, there are people who cannot really expect to be able to work from their homes simply because they lack internet service that would make that realistic. In 2020.
And really, that’s just the adults. Let’s not even talk about all of the kids with no way to access online learning, or do any of the online research that their peers are doing. Because they can’t afford it.
We can choose to leave it as it, or we can choose to find a better way to not leave so many people behind. Because what we have now, will absolutely leave people behind.