Digital Redlining

Digital redlining occurs when groups of people are excluded from digital resources and advancing technologies. These groups are most often low-income communities that have high minority populations. Today, one of the most prominent forms of digital redlining is the limited access to sufficient broadband connections these communities have, as well as the increased fees they pay in comparison to wealthier communities. In the article “Look Back, But Move Forward — Digital Redlining in the 21st Century,” Karen Bryson opens with the assertion that digital redlining is an attack on the American people, aligning the practice with the struggles faced during the Civil Rights Era. I find this statement easy to support because the communities singled out by digital redlining are often defined by geography, income, and race.

Digital redlining is an issue because it disadvantages the communities that face these discriminatory practices. According to Mark Cooper, people “‘cannot function at a high level in our digital age if you don’t have broadband;’” he then goes on to state that communities without sufficient Internet access are essentially “‘two generations behind’” those with Internet access. In terms of how this impacts a community, I believe that this is incredibly detrimental because the Internet has become an invaluable resource in our age of information. Because the world changes so rapidly, having access to information about current events and progress is important in staying updated. For me, the most striking line of Zenitha Prince Senior’s article (“Is Digital Redlining Causing Internet Caste System?”) is the quote from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: “In 2015, taking turns to share the Internet bandwidth is as absurd as taking turns to use the electricity.” This analogy accurately depicts how essential the Internet has become in modern society, as it’s hard to imagine having to share electricity in such a way.

The article mentions Google’s attempt to bring a fiber-optic network to Kansas City, which Zenitha Prince Senior claims excluded lower income communities — engaging in digital redlining. That being said, there are people who disagree with this statement, one of them being Aaron Deacon in his article, “The Truth About Google Fiber and the Digital Divide in Kansas City.” Deacon suggests that Google Fiber actually helped reduce the digital divide in Kansas City, and provides the following map:

Maps of Kansas City’s fiber-optic network progression (as provided by Aaron Deacon)

I support the UN’s assertion that access to the Internet is a basic human right. At this point, as mentioned, the Internet is a necessary tool in maintaining an active role in society’s progress. I do not believe that anyone should be denied their right to information; even if I did believe that information should be classified as more of a luxury, deciding who receives access to information should certainly not be based on income or race.