Most people reading this know how hard it has been to get a test for Covid-19 and now we are finding how difficult it is to get the Covid Vaccine...even when our tier is allowed. Can you image doing it without a computer or on-line access? The US Census Bureau reports that 1 in 3 households headed by someone 65 or older does not have a computer. How do you sign up on a website without a cell phone or computer? It's impossible.
Prices for broadband plans in the US average $68/month, a cost that many low income people just can't afford. And the situation is worse in rural areas where people have DSL that takes minutes to download. The Covid pandemic is shining a bright light on many social inequities, one of them the digital divide in America.
Imagine trying to deal with unemployment benefits without a computer. With Covid, tele-health has become way people access medical care and see their doctor or therapist. Without a computer they go without.
Think of the millions of students who are learning virtually on Zoom. Families with several children need separate computers and iPads for each child, and an internet connection that can support them. A Pew study showed 1 in 5 parents reported their children cannot complete homework because they do not have a computer at home. And 3 in 10 reported their children have to do their homework on a cell phone. These terrible statistics show us the inequities of lower income households where 36% of kids do not have a computer at home. There is a direct correlation between the economic gap and the digital gap.
These problems are not new but the Covid pandemic is showing us what we need to do next. The $2.2 trillion Cares Act passed last year allocated money to the States to expand broadband but those projects had to be up and running by December 30. That is a start. We can't lose sight of how much more needs to be done to bring all citizens to a level playing field for health and education.