The digital divide can be better solved locally

The New York Times reports on an effort in New York City to get broadband to more households. The issue in New York is more about household affordability than access – but the solutions are similar to what rural areas need, looking for a local solution…

The pandemic has put a spotlight on America’s pernicious gap between those who can get online and those who can’t because internet lines don’t reach their homes or they can’t afford access or computers — or all of the above.

The Bronx project, led in part by a clean energy start-up called BlocPower and community organizations including South Bronx Churches, is among many that try to tackle this big problem by thinking small. The initiative uses technology that creates improvised internet signals that cover a defined area with relatively little hassle, bureaucracy or cost.

Small-scale internet projects like this are far from perfect. They can struggle for lack of money, technology problems or failures to get residents involved.

But people I’ve spoken to who are pushing for better and more fair online access in the United States say that small-scale internet networks, in combination with savvier government funding and policies, are part of the solution to America’s digital divide.

One policy issue is the desire to find one overarching solution. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. An overarching solution has worked for many of us (I’m writing from well served city) but we’re down to the 80/20 rule. And we’re going to have to get creative to reach the last 20 percent – in rural, urban and suburban areas. The good new is that people are creative – especially when they are the ones in pain. We just need more policies that support local creativity.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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