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2. Special report: The 4 new digital divides

Note: Income inequality is shown using the Gini Index — a measure of income distribution among a population. A value of 0 represents absolute equality; a value of 1 absolute inequality. Data: 2017 American Community Survey; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The internet has become a fundamental requirement of modern life. For those with comfortable incomes, living in cities or suburbs, connectivity and information can seem ubiquitous.

Reality check: According to a 2017 report from the Brookings Institution, less than one fifth of Americans live in a neighborhood where at least 80% of the residents have broadband.

  • Nearly one-in-five teens are sometimes unable to complete homework because of lack of a reliable computer or internet connection.
  • Local news and information is becoming scarce and hard to access. More than 500 newspapers have closed or merged in rural communities since 2004.

What's happening: This situation is the result of two types of “digital divide” operating today:

  • A geographic divide —in which rural and other areas are underserved because it doesn’t make financial sense for companies to invest in infrastructure.
  • An economic divide — where infrastructure is in place, but lower-income families lack affordable access and devices.

These divides are colliding and combining in troubling ways — creating a whole spectrum of education, information, and privacy inequality.

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