Digital Divide


Faster, Cheaper Internet on its Way to D.C.


D.C. is making some headway in closing the digital divide: last week, Mayor Vincent Gray broke ground on the DC Community Access Network, a $25 million federal grant-funded project aimed at improving affordable broadband Internet access in the city’s most underserved wards.

The new system won’t be fully complete until June 2013 and will provide direct Internet access to “community anchor institutions,” which includes charter schools, health clinics and senior centers. Residents and private businesses, however, will have to access the network through a last mile provider, which in many cases will be a private Internet service provider who will set the prices.

Just how affordable is affordable access? The District hasn’t chosen the providers for residents and business, so we don’t know the rates yet. But Ayanna Smith of the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer writes in an e-mail to DCentric that price points should be set by mid-April and that they will be below market-rate. Community-based groups and apartment and condo dwellers can also get in the game by becoming last mile providers and leveraging the low-cost service, too.

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A Different Aspect of the Digital Divide

Flickr: Wayan Vota

Sorry, baby. Your internet is slow!

Everything is nicer in the suburbs, including broadband! Via the Investigative Reporting Workshop at AU:

People who live in low-income areas of the District of Columbia on average get less for their broadband dollar than those who live in the wealthy suburbs — and subscribers in rural areas get the worst deals of all, according to a new study.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University analyzed customer speed tests and surveys around the nation’s eighth-largest metropolitan statistical area, which has a population of about 5.4 million…

The numbers indicate that while people in poor neighborhoods may pay a little less each month for service, they are likely to experience much slower speeds.

The Digital Divide and Net Neutrality

Flickr: Chris Brogan.

Racialicious Editor Latoya Peterson was at the “Broadband and Social Justice Summit” last week; she covered the event for The Root. Her entire report is worth a read; highlights are below.

Politicians and industry leaders touted their efforts to bring high-speed access to more African Americans, but the issue of net neutrality is still a source of conflict.

Over the hum of laptops and the persistent, attention-demanding chirps of a hundred BlackBerrys, the Minority Media & Telecom Council convened its “Broadband and Social Justice Summit” in Washington, D.C., last week, a gathering of industry and government leaders, to discuss how broadband access and adoption can help bridge the digital divide and provide minority entrepreneurs with unprecedented opportunity in the digital realm.

Despite the gains spurred by activists, telecom workers and policymakers, disparities in broadband access — particularly along race and class lines — persist. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than two-thirds of adults have broadband Internet access at home. While African Americans have made considerable gains in the last few years, just 56 percent of blacks have broadband at home…

the summit was not without controversy. Net neutrality, a huge point of contention for many members of of the black digerati, was often demonized by speakers at the event. Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet remains free and accessible on an equal level to all users, rather than a tiered system in which wealthier users can dominate or restrict the bandwidth available to other users.

“Pay it forward and advance our city”


MacBook Air in hyper-privileged Ward 2, where there is almost 100% broadband adoption.

Like Congress Heights on the Rise, Blogger Nicole in DC also has concerns about the digital divide and #DCtweeps, the WaPo social media contest which I posted about earlier today:

…we’re the leaders in this online community whether we choose to be or not. We make a living, feed ourselves and/or our families, and have an offline social network because we’re the best. People listen to what we have to say and are invested in our opinions and our lives. We’re not living up to our responsibilities as leaders through innovation, change, or betterment of our community and our neighbors; instead, we’re participating in meaningless competitions to garner an award from a print publication that does a poor job at covering/reporting the news on social media. Furthermore, we’re squandering the power we do have when we succumb to competitions like this…

Community isn’t about putting ourselves above our friends and neighbors who are left behind.

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D.C.’s Top Tweeps 2010 and the Digital Divide

Flickr: Alykat

Sculpture in Congress Heights by Anne Allardyce

Over at Congress Heights on the Rise, East of the River blogger The Advoc8te takes issue with the “popularity contest” that The Washington Post is hosting for D.C.’s Twitter royalty in “Why I won’t be voted “DC’s Best Blogger” in the DCTweeps Contest “:

How can you expect voters to participate in the election process when they don’t have the basic tools to participate? How can you vote in a contest if you don’t even know it’s going on?

As a blogger, a social media consultant, and as someone who spends about 75% of her waking hours online, I understand the ease and convenience of holding these types of contests using online surveys and Twitter. The technology is here to stay, no doubt about it. However, in communities such as ours where a good portion of the population still doesn’t have access to reliable and/or affordable Internet service and where most homes do not have a computer or access to one, a big part of the population becomes disenfranchised, even in purely entertainment contests such as this one. How do we expect residents who exist within the confines of the digital void to participate outside of it? How do we expect residents from outside of the community to learn about what’s inside the community if there is such a digital divide?

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Public School Menus Now Online

What's for Lunch, on the first.

D.C. public school menus are available for download here.

At first, I thought this was nifty; then I realized that there are a lot of people who may not be able to access such useful information. I am not sure that my Mother would know how to wrangle PDF files; I am sure that there are other Parents or caretakers who lack robust internet access at home and machines with which to use it.

I don’t know that Smartphones would be well-suited for this purpose, either: Continue reading