The Digital Divide in The United States of America is posing a serious threat to the life of individuals battling COVID-19
As you already know COVID-19 is beginning to impact a larger portion of the American population as accessible testing sites & infection numbers increase. With more small counties and localities around the nation on lockdown, citizens are forced to rely on the internet to access resources for education, shopping, healthcare, and work.
In a report conducted by M-Lab, findings show that right after the lockdown internet speeds across the nation experienced a severe slow-down. Another troubling find shows that in late March about 62% of all counties in the United States were not receiving the minimum download speed as mandated by the federal government.
When the coronavirus outbreak was just beginning to impact the US on a large scale, approximately 1 out of every 10 US counties experienced internet speed slow-downs. Now that people are solely reliant upon the internet for a wide range of essential functions, underserved communities will be impacted the hardest as transitioning to a completely digital school & work environment is not easy for many.
ISPs respond to criticism during COVID-19 lockdown
Now that there is so much attention on this issue, internet service providers are beginning to respond to the criticism they’ve been receiving. Many of the top ISPs in the US have stated that despite the lockdown, internet speeds are performing at optimal rates even with the surge of users online simultaneously. While this may be their official story, third-party entities such as M-Lab have found that many ISPs are not meeting the US government’s minimum download speed standard.
This issue impacts functions such as upload speeds, streaming, & data transmission rates. The FCC has released an official report that states approximately 21 million Americans are without access to high-speed internet. Other studies indicate that the true number is likely around 42 million, regardless of the actual numbers the facts are that lack of access to quality internet impacts the most vulnerable in society.
True impacts on everyday people
To see the real-life effects that a lack of access to the internet has, you can look to students all across the country who are now forced to try and find free wi-fi hotspots near their homes just to do basic school work. In some school districts, leadership is taking the initiative to pay for their student internet service to make remote learning a possibility for everyone.
The Prince George county school district near Washington DC is planning to give out laptops to all of their students who don’t have access to a laptop at home. As the country’s infrastructure continues to be tested with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, hope of a better future with full-proof solutions as a result of learning from our mistakes as a society is something many are holding onto.