The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role of fast and affordable internet service. With internet access, Americans across the country forced to stay home have been able to keep in touch with family and friends, schedule important virtual doctor’s appointments, work from home, and continue their education.
But the pandemic has also underscored how these opportunities are not available to everyone, with significant disparities based on geography and income. Tens of millions of people across the United States, especially those in rural and tribal areas, do not have access to broadband internet services because of where they live. Millions more simply can’t afford it, and go without internet service despite living in broadband network service areas. For these populations, the pandemic has been especially isolating, putting access to remote jobs and education even further out of reach.
This digital divide is increasingly harmful. Regardless of the pandemic, internet access will only continue to become more essential to American life, as crucial to a minimum standard of living as heat and running water. And those without it will be further left behind and excluded.