Free Press, a media reform organization, released a report, “Wired Less: Disconnected in Urban America,” on Tuesday that found city dwellers have, on average, less access to high-speed Internet than their suburban counterparts. It turns out that despite your image of graphic designers sipping lattes and working on the free wi-fi in a coffee bar in a gentrifying neighborhood, city residents typically cannot afford the $40-$60 per month that high-speed Internet service costs. “Even in some of our most tech-savvy wired cities,” says the report, “millions of people – particularly low-income households, immigrant populations and senior citizens – do not have high-speed Internet in their homes or businesses.”
This inequality, of course, means that people of color are also less likely to have high-speed Internet access. And not being able to afford the service is only one reason. The report found that “some urban areas have been red-lined by Internet service providers that refuse to offer service to communities that may not provide as large a financial return.” Given the importance of the Internet and computer literacy in finding employment, this poses a situation has the potential further disadvantage people with already limited job prospects. With the possibility being raised in some quarters that the economy may need a second stimulus bill, an investment in subsidized urban Internet access would be an ideal investment — and one that would surely generate economic activity. It seems like a perfect cause for the White House Office of Urban Policy to take up.
Ben Adler is a journalist in New York. He is a former reporter for Grist, The Nation, Newsweek and Politico, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The New Republic.