Bridging the Broadband Digital Divide
October 8th, 2020
What is Broadband?
Broadband is high-speed Internet that is permanently on and is significantly faster than dial-up access. The most common types of broadband Internet connections are Cable, Fiber, and DSL. Broadband has started to replace baseband (the technology that was originally used for most computer networks) and is now the new standard for Internet connections.
What is the Digital Divide?
The digital divide refers to the gap between the demographics and regions that have access to high-speed Internet, and those that don’t. It also encompasses access to phone services, TV, and computers. Until the late 1990s, the digital divide focused on access to telephone services. Now, it is predominately used to define the disparity between those with and without access to the Internet. The COVID-19 Pandemic has drastically altered our dependency on technology, making Internet access and personal computers increasingly vital. But, not everyone has access to modern technology. That’s where the effort to bridge the digital divide comes in.
Bridging the Digital Divide
High-speed Internet access is necessary for working from home, using telehealth services, and remote learning. According to the Pew Research Center, 87% of adults say that the internet has been important for them personally during the COVID-19 outbreak, but only 73% of Americans have access to broadband at home. Additionally, even in groups with access to the Internet, the digital divide is still present due to inadequate personal computers, low-speed internet connections, and unaffordable broadband prices. Roughly one-in-five parents with children who are remote learning say it is likely their child will not be able to complete their schoolwork because they don’t have access to a personal computer [x]. In Utah alone, there are 181,255 children without high-speed Internet at home [x].
UTOPIA Fiber’s Efforts
Minimizing the digital divide is ingrained in everything we do at UTOPIA Fiber. When we build out our network, we connect every home in the city. We provide our high-speed fiber connectivity to every home and neighborhood. We also work with local city governments to offer high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots in public places for those who aren’t connected to our network. This is a temporary fix, but one that can be essential to people without Internet service.
We operate an open-access network, which means that we allow Internet service providers (currently, we have 13 on our network) to provide Internet services on our fiber backbone. Doing so increasing competition, combats Internet monopolies, and lowers the price of broadband in the communities we serve. We are proud to offer modern speeds of 250 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gbps that can truly keep up any household’s Internet needs. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we pledge to continue working towards bridging the digital divide and supporting universal broadband access.