Luis Urbinas: Not All Americans Have Access to the Internet!

Dear Commons Community,

Luis Urbinas, outgoing President of the Ford Foundation, has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today, drawing attention to the fact that many Americans especially the poor do not have access to the Internet and other communications technologies. He makes the case that:

“Many people reading this article are probably doing so on a smartphone, tablet or computer. They might not know that half of Americans don’t own a smartphone, one-third lack a broadband connection and one-fifth don’t use the Web at all.

Since 2007, when I was named president of the Ford Foundation, we’ve given $44.5 million to dozens of organizations — like Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Mozilla Foundation and the Media and Democracy Coalition — to make the Internet more accessible, affordable and mindful of privacy…

The factors that will drive our national future — educational achievement, a healthy population, broad political participation and economic opportunity for all — depend in significant ways on how we structure and manage our spreading digital frontier. About 19 million Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband; many more can’t afford it.

Virtually all of America’s schools are connected to the Internet today. But that success is a lot like trumpeting, a century ago, that virtually every town in the country was reachable by road. Then, as now, the question is quality. Children who go to school in poor neighborhoods are connected to the Web at speeds so slow as to render most educational Web sites unusable.”

Mr. Urbinas makes several important points in this piece.  I would suggest that in addition to government assistance some of the deep-pocket foundations such as Gates, Broad, and Walton consider directing the billions of dollars at their disposal to this issue.



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