Affordable Internet to Bridge the Digital Divide

Solutions Journalism Network

By Saira Bajwa, Solutions Specialist

For communities that struggle with the realities of poverty, the digital divide has taken on new urgency, as so many components of daily life now rely on having access to a reliable and affordable internet connection. 

Conversations about the digital divide in the United States typically center on a lack of infrastructure in rural communities, where internet providers don’t have a profitable consumer base and people build their own broadband networks to stay connected. In cities, the barrier to accessing the internet is the high price of a reliable and functional connection. The stories in this collection highlight responses in American cities that address both internet access and affordability.  

Despite successful lobbying efforts from commercial broadband providers to ban local governments from creating their own networks in 22 states, American cities have creatively implemented solutions to address the issue of affordability. Chattanooga, Tennessee, installed fiber-optic cables on streetlights. San Antonio and Pittsburgh used pre-existing infrastructure to connect underserved neighborhoods with high-speed internet. 

In Los Angeles, a provider brings affordable internet to public housing complexes for $15 a month, following a free six-month trial period. And, in South Dakota, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe benefitted from new technology that allowed them to use radio waves to access high-speed internet with funding from the federal CARES Act. 

Affordability, not just infrastructure alone, must be addressed in order to remedy a lack of internet access. Reliable and affordable internet access is vital to economic mobility in a time when educational and professional success rely on staying connected.