May 17, 2022 - News

Tackling the local digital divide

Illustration of a person standing on top of a strong wifi signal, while another tried to balance on a weak one
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Detroit's digital divide could be narrowing through an influx of pandemic infrastructure spending and new programs for equitable and reliable Internet access.

Why it matters: Internet access has become a necessity, not a luxury, and many residents do not have reliable internet at home.

  • School work, banking, job searches and mental health support are just some internet-supported aspects of everyday life.

Driving the news: State and federal leaders held a roundtable discussion yesterday at Cass Technical High School about strategies to close the digital gap.

What they're saying: "We're proud to step into this opportunity together – the greatest opportunity to expand access to the internet since the internet itself was invented," Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said at a press conference following the roundtable.

  • "We will meet this moment by working together."

By the numbers: Nearly 70% of students did not have internet access at home before the pandemic.

The big picture: Recent federal and state infrastructure bills boosted spending to increase internet access.

  • The White House recently announced new details about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that offers $30 monthly internet service for low-income households.
  • Detroit households that qualified for the EBB will be automatically enrolled in ACP.

Zoom out: Reliable broadband service could also help address our food deserts, Axios' Joann Muller writes.

  • While low-income neighborhoods often don't have great supermarkets, they do have access to prominent food delivery platforms.
  • The mismatch between access broadband and food delivery services is most acute in urban areas like Detroit.
State and federal leaders discuss the digital divide at a press conference.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Detroit Director of Digital Inclusion Joshua Edmonds discuss internet access. Photo: Joe Guillen/Axios
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