By Trevor Smith
In an age where we are constantly connected to the web through our smartphones, tablets, and the myriad of other technological devices, the Internet has become a critical source of information for most of Americans.
Unfortunately, some people cannot afford the luxury of a smartphone, or even a home Internet subscription, and are consequently falling behind their digitally-connected peers.
To rectify this problem, President Barack Obama announced on June 6 a new program called ConnectHome, which will bring high-speed Internet to low income communities throughout the nation. The initiative aims to close the troubling digital divide between those who can afford an Internet subscription and those who cannot.
According to a White House fact sheet, the program will launch in 27 cities and one tribal nation. It will initially provide 275,000 low income households and nearly 200,000 children with access to the Internet at home for as little as $9.95 a month or, in some instances, for free.
“If we don’t get these young people the access to what they need to achieve their potential, then it’s our loss; it’s not just their loss,” President Obama said at the program’s unveiling in Durant, Oklahoma.
The fact sheet explains that while nearly two-thirds of our nation’s lowest-income households own a computer, less than half have a home Internet subscription. This disparity creates a “homework gap” between those who can use the Internet for further research and those who go home to a digital void. For the latter, who usually live in low income neighborhoods, they are at a serious disadvantage in their efforts to further their education outside the classroom—a problem that is likely to impact them throughout their academic lives and beyond.
The Obama Administration has had an interest in connecting students with the digital world for some time now. ConnectHome comes as an extension of the President’s ConnectEd program, which has provided 98 percent of students from kindergarten through 12th grade with high-speed Internet in classrooms and libraries.
Kids today are growing up in a world where the constant barrage of daily information and news is hard enough to keep up with—even when they are fortunate enough to have immediate access to the internet through numerous devices. Those who aren’t so lucky don’t have the same opportunities to enrich their education, which in turn makes them less prepared to compete in an increasingly digital world.
It’s great that the Obama Administration has recognized that a home is much more than a place where you go to lay your head; it also should be a place where you learn, mature, and thrive. Hopefully this initiative will help move those who find themselves stuck in the digital dark ages towards greater access to information and resources.
Trevor Smith is a senior journalism student at the American University. Originally from Germantown, MD, he spent the majority of his childhood in Asia. Upon graduation, Trevor hopes to work for a non-profit in a communications role, in hopes of informing the public on the social issues that matter. Follow him on Twitter @tsmith1211