What’s the Greatest Risk Cities Face?

Broadband deserts

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Media Outlet: POLITICO Magazine
Greta Byrum writes for POLITICO about America's poorer urban areas and how they are suffering from inferior broadband access:
Usually conversations about lack of broadband access focus on rural areas and small towns. But even in wealthy cities, poorer areas often get inferior service from the telecom giants—and even where there is access, many underserved and marginalized people can’t afford to get online, relying on libraries or insecure public WiFi systems. About a quarter of Americans—many of them city residents—still do not have reliable broadband at home.
This is not just about weakness or fragility in our telecommunications systems (though they do reliably fail in emergencies). Even in a booming market and in everyday conditions, the telecommunications market, long captured by industry giants, builds infrastructure only where it knows it will make a good return on investment: wealthy neighborhoods that can afford high rates for premium services like Verizon’s Fios. The outcome is dramatically inequitable access to the infrastructure that undergirds basic economic, educational and civic participation. The gap in quality of access between connected and unconnected neighborhoods is growing, as legacy cable and phone systems age and as every storm and flood threatens to damage already fragile systems. Data capacity needs are also growing exponentially as we implement smart transportation, electrical and other city systems.


Author:

Greta Byrum is the director of the Resilient Communities program at New America. She reimagines the way we design, build, and manage communications systems to support local residents as leaders, organizers, and preparedness experts.