Political quarrels extend the digital divide

Digital divide Unite unfamiliar bedmates. Satya Nadella Worried about it; his company Microsoft found Half a country The Internet is not used at a speed that can maintain normal Zoom calls.In Nadella’s hometown of Washington, a Republican congressman Cathy McMorris Rogers Share his worries even if she is Introduced legislation Municipalities are forbidden to build their own networks to help bridge the gap. She is not a fan of President Joe Biden, Joe Biden Don’t like this kind of disagreement.However, Joe Biden is a fan Municipal network.

In the proposals of the Democrats and Republicans, a good round number continues to appear in the cost of allowing all Americans to obtain and make full use of digital technology: $100 billion. Although this payment is spectacular, it is also very outrageous and a mirage.

However, if we honestly understand how big the digital divide is, we can begin to carry out the creative engineering needed to bridge it.

A budget of US$100 billion in eight years to close the digital divide-echoing the budget of US$94 billion Congressional Democrats’ Proposal——One of the main pillars of President Biden’s original book U.S. Employment Program. Since negotiating with Republicans, the Biden team has Withdraw To a more modest $65 billion. The problem is that 100 billion US dollars is no longer enough. This number is from 2017 What the FCC estimates need Provide broadband access for every American. But the FCC seriously underestimated those who don’t have broadband internet. Incorrectly mapped Go out Less than 14.5 million Disconnected person.More reliable “Manual” check Research firm BroadbandNow sets this number at 42 million. And, of course, according to Microsoft, the number of people who do not use broadband-either because of insufficient access or equipment, or because it is too expensive- Much higher. Even acting as FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel recognition Undercounted and commissioned appropriate Mapping Broadband covers the whole country.

Let’s take just 42 million counts as an example.Apply FCC’s cost structure, my Envisioning the Digital Economy for All (IDEA) 2030 research team analysis The government needs to spend at least $240 billion. The Biden team not only did not reduce the budget, but must further increase the budget.

One complication is The urban-rural divide in the digital divide. Both the Democratic and Republican proposals emphasize the lack of Internet access in rural areas, where they are keen to attract voters. however, three times There are as many urban households as rural households without broadband users.Although the rural gap is due to High cost and low income With the potential to build infrastructure in sparsely populated and scattered areas, urban households often lack broadband because it is Can not affordThis means that we not only need to build infrastructure, but also need to reduce the price of broadband access.

A renewed focus on racial justice may provide a way to devote more resources to the urban divide.The cruel reality is that the digital divide reflects the racial divide, and cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Cleveland As the main case study.There is one in the country 14 points gap In broadband access between white and black families with school-age children.Black families have fewer opportunities High-paying, technically supported occupations; No wonder the black community Disproportionately affected Affected by the epidemic and economic downturn. If these conditions continue, as automation and remote work increase, most blacks and Hispanics may be turned away. By 2045, 86% of jobsThe digital divide is at the core of many pressing racial inequalities in healthcare, education, job security, and well-being.

Although Biden prioritizes racial justice, can he expect some support from Republicans to alleviate the situation? On the surface, bridging the digital divide seems to be a priority for the two parties, partly because of the common motivation of rural voters.Some Republicans even debate Biden’s current compromise budget of 65 billion U.S. dollars, if you count the budget that has been “under planning” and passed by Congress, it actually adds up to 100 billion U.S. dollars. Regardless of whether this is interesting mathematics, the funding to find such a harmonious problem and solution in Washington, DC in 2021 seems remarkable.

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