In November, President Joe Biden enacted a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, one of the biggest federal spending programs in history and a major part of Biden’s national agenda.
The bipartisan bill includes billions of dollars in investments for infrastructure priorities like roads, bridges, and water and sewer systems. But one of the most important elements of the new bill is an allocation of $ 65 billion to improve access and affordability of high-speed Internet.
Broadband advocates have advocated for increased high-speed Internet access for years. These advocates note that Internet access is essential to participate in the modern economy, but that many households and communities are unable to ensure reliable Internet service.
In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that 21 million Americans did not have access to high-speed internet, and others placed the number much higher than that. And even in communities where broadband is available, some low-income households cannot afford the cost of the service.
But the COVID-19 pandemic may have been the catalyst for making universal broadband a political priority. As millions of American households have switched to work and home schooling during the pandemic, a lack of reliable internet service has prevented some workers from participating in the economy and deprived students of classroom instructional time. .
This lack of access has disproportionately affected some communities more than others. Broadband access is strongly correlated with a variety of demographic and economic factors, particularly income and race. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that in 2021, 92% of adults earning more than $ 75,000 a year had access to high-speed internet, compared to just 57% of those making less than $ 30,000 a year.
In terms of race and ethnicity, 80% of white adults have reliable high-speed internet access, compared to only 71% of black adults and 65% of Hispanic adults.
The demographic distribution of broadband access is also closely related to geography. Rural areas lag far behind urban and suburban communities when it comes to access to reliable high-speed internet. And rural areas with a higher population of racial and ethnic minorities and lower income levels, such as in southern states like Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama, are the places most likely not to have high speed internet access.
At the metro level, many economically struggling communities in the south and the Rust Belt region are among the least likely to have high-speed Internet access.
For residents who do not have high-speed Internet access, the Saint-Joseph region ranks 4th among small subways. According to US census data, 47.9% of households do not have broadband internet and 19.6% do not have an internet connection.
It is the data that has prompted organizations across the region to try to bridge the ‘digital divide’. The Bartlett Center Virtual Academy provides high-speed Internet access to students who need access for educational purposes. The St. Joseph School District also provides mobile hotspots for those who do not have internet access at home and need to access its virtual academy.
LaTonya Williams, executive director of St. Joseph’s Bartlett Center, said it has proven to be a hit with the students.
“All of our kids in the programs excelled and they rocked it. So, I look forward to a new generation of children and an amazing experience in the Virtual Academy program, ”she said.
The data used in this study comes from the 2019 American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau. To identify the locations with the most residents without high-speed internet, KTCB researchers calculated the share of households without access to high-speed internet service such as cable, fiber optic or ADSL installed in the household. . In the event of a tie, the location with the highest percentage of residents without internet access has been ranked above. The researchers also calculated the percentage of households whose only means of accessing the Internet is on a cellular data plan, the median household income and the poverty rate.
News-Press NOW reporter Andrew Gaug contributed
News-Press NOW reporter Andrew Gaug contributed to this story.