The digital divide has persisted in California and the USA as a whole at approximately the same level for the past decade. This is despite multiple programs being created…
The digital divide has persisted in California and the USA as a whole at approximately the same level for the past decade. This is despite multiple programs being created and billions of dollars being spent to close it. This paper examines why the efforts to date have been ineffective and to offers policy alternatives that might be more successful.
Using data from three, variable constrained projects in California, this paper examines the effectiveness of information-based outreach efforts at closing the digital divide. The projects tested various outreach and enrollment methods to see which, if any, could increase broadband adoption in low-income households.
This project found that providing low-income households’ information about low-cost broadband offerings was ineffective at closing the digital divide. The findings in this paper were similar to those of two other works that examined the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The findings of this paper along with the works cited that evaluated the BTOP program should be enough to change public policy. For the past ten years, efforts to close the digital divide have focused on providing information to low-income households. However, two independent surveys show broadband adoption has remained virtually flat during that period.
The digital divide brings concomitant economic and education harms and challenges that plague those unable to access information, services, educational and employment opportunities with the same ease, speed and sufficiency as their connected peers and neighbors. Those harms exacerbate the already existing education and income divides. This paper shows that without a change in strategy, those harms will persist.
This paper breaks new ground and addresses one of the weaknesses identified in existing research. To the best of author’s knowledge, this is the first paper of its type to use programs designed to generate data that can be empirically evaluated for effectiveness. Prior studies attempted to assess program effectiveness by using data generated from fully implemented government programs. However, those programs contained a vast number of unidentified variables and insufficient data collection. They were not designed to facilitate academic evaluation, and as such made a true effectiveness evaluation challenging.
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…
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.