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Closing the Digital Divide: A Justification for Government Intervention

The M in CITAMS@30

ISBN: 978-1-78769-670-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-669-3

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 30 November 2018


Access to high-speed Internet is essential for full and consequential participation in the civic, economic, and education systems of modern life. Yet 30% of Californians continue to lack “meaningful Internet access” at home. This digital divide is worse among already disadvantaged communities and prevents rural, lower-income, and disabled individuals from fully participating in the civic, economic, and education systems of life in 2018. This chapter establishes the magnitude of the digital divide, examines the factors that contribute to the Divide, and looks at which groups are most affected. Successful government programs that invested in utility infrastructure and adoption, such as the Rural Electrification Act, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the California Advanced Services Fund, are examined to provide a foundation for broadband specific policy recommendations. The chapter sets up a framework for policy recommendations by segmenting the population based upon the concepts of material and motivational access and establishing meaningful Internet access as the goal for policy-makers. The chapter puts forth a number of specific policy recommendations to address the technological disparity and prevent it from furthering the economic and educational divides.




I am grateful to Matthew Taylor, Sunne McPeak, Anil Deolalikar, Barbara O’Connor, Barry Wellman, and Laura Robinson for their support, collaboration, and editing. I would also like to thank the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) for commissioning the annual broadband adoption survey on the Digital Divide and for making that data publicly available. This chapter was supported by funding from the CETF and by a grant from the University of California at Riverside School of Public Policy, Center for Technology, Society and Policy. Without the help and support of both those organizations, this chapter would not be possible.


Levine, L. (2018), "Closing the Digital Divide: A Justification for Government Intervention", The M in CITAMS@30 (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 9-36.



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