Lessons of the Pandemic – Demanding Equal Access to the Internet as a Human Right

Source: Ethnic Media Services

The Internet has become so central to modern life that access to it is a necessity. Broadband access is an integral part of infrastructure negotiations and in the United Nations, that access is considered a human right.

At a panel convened by Ethnic Media Services on July 23, representatives of national and California nonprofits, joined by an elementary school tutor and an adult education leader, discussed efforts to create equitable, reliable Internet access for all and why doing so is important.

“(The pandemic) drew attention to the issue … when there were news stories showing kids doing their homework in a Taco Bell parking lot, how does that not break anyone’s heart?” Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance  (NDIA), asked.

“There is no longer any question as to whether broadband is infrastructure,” she said, but “It’s also about work, it’s also about health, it’s about connecting to your families, it’s about everything. Survive today without it? No.”

Nationwide, “36 million U.S. households do not have an Internet connection – a wire line – cable, DSL or fiber in their homes,” Siefer said.

“We still encounter individuals who think the problem is about rural availability,” Siefer added. “Twenty-six million are urban, 10 million are rural. All of these households are important, but the bigger number piece of this is urban.

“There’s also a significant problem about affordability and having the support to learn digital skills to be able to make full use of it.”

“The digital divide is literally just another manifestation of the economic divide, of the opportunity divide, and that is rooted in systemic racism,” said Sunne McPeak, president and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF).

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