Photo of hands holding a smartphone.

Right now an affordable internet connection can be the difference between being employed and unemployed, healthy or sick, connected with the outside world or isolated.

As the COVID-19 pandemic forces students out of classrooms and workers out of work, the digital divide in our communities has become more visible than ever. Journalists can and should be working to tell communities’ stories about digital inequities. And it’s no longer an issue relegated just to the tech and telecom beats: Reporters covering education, labor and other community issues are seeing how essential affordable and accessible internet is to everything we do.


Advocates rally for the Lifeline phone and internet subsidy program at the FCC in 2018

As our communities retreat into quarantine, isolation and social distancing to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the systems we use to connect and communicate have never been more important.

But not everyone has equitable access to those systems.

Schools across the country are shutting down, shifting learning from physical classroom to digital cloud — but we know that only 56 percent of households making less than $20,000 annually have home broadband, and that Black and Hispanic households lag behind their white counterparts even when we control for income differences. …

Five women wearing purple t-shirts that read “Arlington Counts” stand arm-in-arm.
Five women wearing purple t-shirts that read “Arlington Counts” stand arm-in-arm.
Attendees at an “Arlington Counts” event promoting the census in Arlington, Virginia. Flickr user Arlington County

When the digital divide keeps poor families and people of color offline, who counts?

2020 is going to be a big year for politics — and I don’t just mean the election.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau tries to count every person in the country, and the data it collects is crucial. The results determine all sorts of political counts, including how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives, how local voting districts are drawn and how federal resources are distributed.

And this time it’s going to be a little different: The 2020 Census is…

Children cluster around computers with a few adult instructors.
Children cluster around computers with a few adult instructors.
The launch of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program at a school in Baltimore in 2014 Flickr user Maryland GovPics

This week, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research released a working paper analyzing the impact of Comcast’s Internet Essentials (IE) program, which offers some (but not all) low-income households a $10-per-month discounted internet service.

The study’s authors wring their hands and warn that lower prices alone won’t bridge the digital divide. But that straw-man argument doesn’t work, especially because a closer look shows the tremendous impact that even an imperfect program like IE can have.

Despite the authors’ dour outlook, their strenuous attempts to discount their own results, and the limitations of the IE program, the study shows that…

Photo of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at the American Conservative Union CPAC 2018 Conference.
Photo of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at the American Conservative Union CPAC 2018 Conference.
Photo of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at American Conservative Union CPAC 2018.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals just threw out — for the fourth time — the FCC’s bad-faith attempt to slash its media-ownership rules.

Ajit Pai never met a broadcast merger he didn’t like — and he’s spent much of the past three years of his tenure as FCC chair wiping protections off the books and giving massive broadcast corporations a green light to consolidate even more.

Pai’s bad plan

Here’s the deal: Every four years, the FCC is supposed to review its media-ownership rules to make sure they’re achieving their public-interest goals of promoting competition, localism and diversity. …

If the digital divide had one silver-bullet solution, we would have bridged it already.

At the outset of their recent Washington Post Op-Ed , Blair Levin and Larry Downes reject federal policymakers’ singular focus on promoting rural broadband deployment, arguing that the digital divide is not merely a question of rural access. In fact, they rightly note that there are more disconnected folks in urban areas than in rural ones. Millions of disconnected people live where broadband is already deployed, but still don’t subscribe to it.

However, the Op-Ed’s promise is dashed when the authors replicate the same kind of…

Photograph of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at CPAC 2018

More than a month has passed since an FCC judge declared the scuttled Sinclair-Tribune merger dead as a doornail.

Grave concerns about the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s dishonesty live on, and should haunt the nation’s largest owner of local-TV stations. And FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has done absolutely nothing.

Sinclair’s shady ways

Sinclair proposed its ill-fated Tribune merger in May 2017 in a deal that would have allowed the conglomerate to reach more than 70 percent of the national audience and consolidate its hold in local markets across the country. …

Image of two hands holding a smartphone.

Seattle just released a new study examining broadband adoption that made two things perfectly clear:

  1. The digital divide affects people everywhere in the United States, and
  2. It’s all about affordability.

Even in a tech-forward city like Seattle, people without adequate or affordable internet access are being left behind. According to survey data, a whopping 21 percent of Seattleites making less than $25K annually do not have broadband access in their homes — compared to just 1 percent of people making more than $50K.

This tracks with Free Press’ report Digital Denied, which shows that income inequality and systemic racism are…

Image of Net Neutrality activists posing outside the FCC with an orange sign that reads “real #Net Neutrality now.”

Last week, Free Press VP of Strategy and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González testified in Congress about the importance of restoring real Net Neutrality protections and a strong legal framework for internet users’ rights.

During the hearing, three of the Republicans representatives there (Bob Latta, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Greg Walden) tried to upstage these arguments by introducing fake Net Neutrality bills.

We haven’t seen the full text of all of these bills yet, but we know what they’ll do because they’re all dusted-off versions of earlier ISP-written bills. …

Image of Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaking in front of a crowd.

On Thursday, the 116th Congress was sworn in, featuring more people of color and women than any other first-term class in our nation’s history. Among them ring strong voices calling for structural change, social and economic justice, and fierce resistance to the Trump administration’s toxic agenda.

Another striking thing about these new representatives? They strongly support an open internet.

Initial Free Press research shows that of the nearly 100 new House members, at least 70 percent of first-term Democrats have already publicly stated their support for real Net Neutrality. Some of them fought for Net Neutrality in previous elected positions…

Dana Floberg

Policy Manager @freepress / @freepressaction I care about media, social justice & storytelling. Opinions are my own. she/her

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