Internet access has become an essential utility in homes everywhere.
Logistics don’t prohibit networks from reaching the masses in much of the industrialized world; even the most remote outposts of rural America can get access via satellite internet or DSL. Despite widespread connectivity, cost keeps some Americans from logging on.
Affordable internet service is crucial in combatting these growing problems:
ACCESS | Kids without internet access at home are at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Pew research reveals 62% of people in homes with less than $30,000 in combined income use the internet. That percentage grows to 90% for families that earn $50,000-$74,999.
Limited access to Internet resources can contribute to an achievement gap in school.
THE JOB SEARCH | Another Pew survey says 54% of American adults have sought jobs online, and 45% have applied for at least one job on the internet. Of 79% of job seekers since 2013, a third used the web to build a resume. They also searched for openings, and followed up by email after interviews.
Lack of Internet access puts some job searchers at a disadvantage. Most jobs are listed online, and candidates with little or no access can’t as easily post resumes to sites such as LinkedIn or participate in webinars and video chats with prospective employers.
Internet service for low-income families
In 2015, President Barack Obama launched a plan designed to expand high-speed Internet access. The reach: more than 275,000 low-income American homes.
The initiative includes:
- Broadband internet access
- Digital literacy programs
- Internet access devices for those in assisted housing
- Technical training
Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy donated $250,000 to the plan; access through Google Fiber will be free; and other internet service providers have pledged to reduce costs to $9.95 a month for low-income customers. It’s all in an effort to keep the achievement gap from growing along fiscal lines.
Some providers participate in government programs to subsidize internet costs. Created for telephone access, Lifeline also provides Internet Basics.
REGULAR LIFELINE | Covers $9.25 per month, although some states supplement that.
ENHANCED LIFELINE | Discounts are bigger. Qualifiers on federally-recognized tribal lands could get help for installation, too.
Some internet providers offer access outside of this program, too. They’ll offer an internet plan for customers who meet criteria for low-cost service.
Cities and communities across the U.S. have also joined in the effort. A school district in California equips a bus with Wi-Fi, and parks it near where disadvantaged students live. Another district in Washington state has installed hotspot kiosks in public housing developments.
Affordable Internet access is crucial. From school to the job marketplace, advantages exist for those who have access. More starkly, disadvantages loom for students and job prospects when they lose out on opportunities to learn and market themselves.