The Digital Divide in Our Backyard

The Google Fiber project came into Kansas City, Missouri with the hopes of implementing 1-gigabit broadband hookups for ultra-high-speed Internet into a major American city. This service, however, could only be set up if neighborhoods pre-registered a certain percentage of households. The service had an installation fee of $300, and after paying that amount, Kansas City residents received a guaranteed seven years of free broadband Internet service.

However, Google Fiber also brought a large controversy to Kansas City. The issue of the digital divide came into play; the first and most enthusiastic buyers of the service came from the most affluent neighborhoods, where residents could afford the installation fee. This brought back past attitudes, clearly displaying the city’s historical socioeconomic and racial dividing line. Residents of Kansas City argued that Google Fiber would actually increase the digital divide.

The clear digital divide between the affluent neighborhoods in Kansas City that pre-registered to gain Google Fiber and the less affluent neighborhoods with little to no internet access.

The Google Fiber YouTube video, “Together, we’re making Kansas City stronger,” states that with communication efforts such as radio, advertisements, and simply talking to neighbors all over the city, Google Fiber rallied 180 “fiberhoods.” They gathered a field team of 60 employees and advertised the service to face the problem head on. It turns out that Kansas City’s digital divide was worse than anyone had thought; there were no dial-up or broadband access in many areas. A substantial part of the community actually did not have any Internet access whatsoever. Google even set out to establish digital literacy programs in Kansas City.

Kansas City after Google Fiber stepped in to fix the divide.

While in our class discussions we talk more about the digital divide internationally, affecting more developing countries, the digital divide can even be seen in the United States. Now one of the major cities in the United States is now going a step farther to have better and wider Internet access and to hopefully bridge the gap. Can the digital divide in the United States be ameliorated?

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One response to “The Digital Divide in Our Backyard

  • lfairba

    This is especially shocking to me because in our country, one would expect that everyone would have access to the internet and things such as broadband and dial-up. The fact that people living in those areas do not have access to such basic and necessary technology is really detrimental to their livelihoods. Internet access has become extremely important to American society, and it is crucial that Americans have internet access as many services and processes are now exclusively online.

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