Reinforcing the Digital Divide

Questions loom as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai settles into his new role and seemingly contradicts the vision he set of “closing the digital divide” with a move that tells “nine companies they won’t be allowed to participate in a federal program meant to help them provide affordable Internet access to low-income consumers” (Fung, 2017). These nine companies had previously been allowed to proceed under the Lifeline program by the previous Chairman Tom Wheeler. Pai stated that this form of last-minute “midnight regulation” undermined the majority opinion of the commissioners and that they would not be forced to move forward.

Access to reliable high-speed internet service is mainly due to cost in the United States where “nonadoption is closely tied to economic status” and “lack of data access reinforces other inequalities” (Crawford, 2013 p. 261). As consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge’s president Gene Kimmelman states: “limiting the Lifeline program, at this moment in time, exacerbates the digital divide. It doesn’t address it in any positive way” (Fung, 2017). In an age where high-speed internet access “brings a wealth  of economic activity and information” to communities, it remains to be see what Chairman Pai’s plans will be to bridge the gap in internet access for the country’s poor as he chooses to move past subsidy programs (Crawford, 2013 p. 261).


REFERENCES

Crawford, S. (2013). Captive Audience. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Fung, B. (2017, February 3). The FCC is stopping 9 companies from providing federally subsidized Internet to the poor. Retrieved February 5, 2017, from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/02/03/the-fcc-is-stopping-9-companies-from-providing-subsidized-broadband-to-the-poor/?utm_term=.cd66df74fcf4

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