One of the important details to take away from the recent passage of the infrastructure bill by the Senate is that there is quite a bit of bipartisan support for closing the digital divide that’s taken over the country.
Closing the Digital Divide Is No Longer Optional
This divide showed its head during the pandemic as government officials, schools, and families saw who was able to keep up with work and school by having an internet connection and who started to fall behind because of a lack of internet in some areas country.
With divisions among families and businesses because of no internet connection, some people struggled to work and keep their bills paid while students weren’t able to keep up with assignments, resulting in some students failing in school.
What’s in the Bill?
The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill features several items that can get the country going in the right direction, such as funding for roads and railways. It also includes over $60 million for companies to use to expand broadband internet.
This coverage is one of the priorities for many broadband companies like Dish internet as they have seen the importance of internet services for as many people as possible, especially in rural areas.
The funds can be used to build more towers and to upgrade equipment so that more people can have access to at least the simple connections that deliver satellite internet to their homes.
There are some high stakes across the country that leaders have taken note of, which is one of the reasons why funding was set aside in the bill when it was drafted and passed.
Although there are homes in the country with an income of less than $30,000, they have made improvements in how they connect to the internet without the assistance of government programs or internet providers.
Many homes have utilized smartphones in order to access the internet. However, there are still about 4 in 10 adults who don’t have the access to broadband that’s needed for communicating, working, or completing schoolwork.
These homes tend to lack the equipment needed to go online as well, such as a computer or a tablet.
What brought these details into focus was when more schools started teaching students virtually during the pandemic.
Just in 2015, a little over 30% of students didn’t have the access they needed to the internet in order to perform research for classes or to submit assignments if they were working from home.
It’s only been five years, and homes are still struggling to bridge the digital divide that’s in place.
Homes might not have the reliable connection needed to use the internet, or they might not be able to afford the prices that providers ask for broadband services. In homes where the income is over $100,000, there’s only about 1% of people who don’t have access to broadband.
Across the country, the details surrounding the digital divide have changed in recent years. Now, there’s a focus on access to equipment and digital skills along with overall access to a connection.
It’s estimated that there could be a shortage of over 3 million people in the technical field in the coming years if something isn’t done to bridge the gap.
People simply don’t have the skills needed to complete the work that’s asked of them or that they could have to perform if they seek jobs in this field.
Schools are a factor in helping to bridge the digital divide as well by offering the same attention to all races and to all income levels instead of only those on the upper end of the scale.
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