Digital Divide Background

The Digital Divide is a Huge Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic made clear what CWA members have known for years: Our Internet infrastructure and workers who maintain that infrastructure are critical and we must expand broadband access. 

If broadband access was a problem before 2020, the pandemic turned it into a crisis. As everything from school to telehealth to non-essential work moved online, digital life became near-inaccessible to anyone whose connection couldn’t support a Zoom call. Some school districts started providing Wi-Fi hotspots to students without a reliable home connection. In other districts, kids set up in McDonald’s parking lots just to get a reliable enough signal to do their homework. After years of slowly widening, the broadband gap became impossible to ignore.

We also know that communities that traditionally get left behind, both in urban and rural areas, because they are low-income, black, and brown communities, tend to get disproportionally left behind when it comes to broadband access. We know that ISPs cherrypick where they want to build out based on profitability rather than aiming to serve the public. We call this digital redlining or digital discrimination. Zipcode and income should not determine whether you have access to high-speed fiber broadband or not.

We Need Real World Solutions That Deliver

In the past, internet service providers who have taken federal funds failed to deliver on their promises of delivering service to areas that need it, and often outsourcing the construction work to low-wage and low-quality contractors who cut corners, risking safety and quality.

That is why we need strong public oversight over these dollars to ensure high-speed, quality broadband is being delivered to communities most in need, which includes both rural and urban parts of our states

Broadband is a necessity and in the 21st century, it must be a right, not a luxury, not a privilege. Yet, too many Americans lack access, or cannot afford high-speed internet. 

CWA has been at the forefront fighting for high-speed broadband internet that is accessible and affordable. CWA members and other telecommunications workers are essential and have been keeping our country's broadband networks up and running throughout the pandemic.