“The Whiteness of Wi-Fi”

“The Whiteness of Wi-Fi”

By: Roberto Lovato

There are multiple types of digital divides when it comes to the Internet.  There are economic, geographic, generational, gender, language, educational, employment, and disabilities divides.  Lovato’s article highlights how the economic and geographic digital divides work in Philadelphia.  Ever since 1890s there has been a geographical divide in Philadelphia drawn by the railroad industry.  African Americans were forced into the poor, sewage-filled street, on the wrong side of the railroad track.

As the city grew over the past century, so did the economical gap between the two sides of the track.  Lovato refers to this as the “digital divide’s color line”.  In 2004, during a media reform movement, city leaders started a program that would give universal access to Wi-Fi to everyone in the city.  The point of this was to “create a digital infrastructure for open-air Internet access and to help citizens, businesses, schools, and community organizations make effective use of wireless technology.”  This would mean that 75% of Philadelphia’s poor would now have the infrastructure to support and provided access to this new technology that they would have never been able to afford or had the infrastructure to support.  Free Wi-Fi already existed in coffee shops, grocery stores, and other businesses in Philadelphia, but all these businesses were located on one side of the track.  The media reform movement was a success and now people all over Philadelphia, regardless of geographic location or economic status, have access to the Internet.

After universal Wi-Fi passed in the City of Brotherly Love, more movements across the country have formed to end the economical, geographical, and racial divides.  Grassroots movements have started to provide Internet and computer access to communities affected by these digital divides.

This article shows a success story about how ICT4Ds have been able to bridge the digital divides and help close the gap between the rich and poor.  Because the Internet was provided to all citizens, instead of just the wealthy or the ones living where infrastructure was available, everyone was able to use this technology.

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One response to ““The Whiteness of Wi-Fi”

  • ahamilton92

    I think it will be interesting to see how this decision in Philadelphia will affect the poor in that city as well as wifi policies in other cities. When free wifi is established, will the poorest Philadelphians have access to devices that can use the wifi? Will an increase in wifi users lead to slower internet for everyone and, therefore, lower productivity? If wifi becomes a public good around the United States, what will that mean for wifi providers? Will they go out of business? How will that affect our economy?

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