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The Problem with Being Under-connected

Guest blog by Community Technology Manager Chance Hunt

*under-connected = limited data or speed, cost barriers, or insufficient devices, tech support or skills

It’s Digital Inclusion Week! Every Seattle resident should have the technologies they need to participate fully in society. Whether they are looking for a job, connecting to family and friends, doing homework, or accessing government services.

According to the 2016 American Communities Survey 93% of Seattle residents have internet at home. However, this does not mean that all residents can afford a level of access or online speeds that meet their needs. Fully 7%, or 50,000 residents, either have no internet connection at home at all or are reliant on cell phone data plans to get online. Taken together, we are seeing a situation where Seattle residents are “under-connected.”

National studies have found a link between home broadband internet adoption and educational success, greater household income, and improved access to government and health resources. This is especially true for vulnerable populations including low-income residents, limited-English speakers, seniors and people with disabilities.

Low-income people are more likely to use a smart phone to create resume and cover letter. These “smartphone only” job seekers report problems entering a large amount of text on their smartphone while searching for a job. They also say they have problems submitting required files or other supporting documents needed to apply for a job

Many low-income parents with home internet access report that their connection is too slow to do the things they wish to do online, especially homework requiring streaming. Households that share a single computer or had their internet cut off due to non-payment puts their students at a disadvantage.

Solutions to address these issues are being found right here in Seattle. In 2017, City of Seattle investments, coupled with private and non-profit support, resulted in:

  • Over 1.9 Million people accessed public Wi-Fi connections at 27 libraries, 29 community centers and other public buildings
  • Broadband internet for non-profit organizations: 314 community sites received free cable broadband service through Comcast and Wave Broadband (valued at $376K)
  • 2,922 residents received digital skills training through City of Seattle investments in community organizations.
  • 6,584 internet “hot spots” were checked out from The Seattle Public LibrarySo, as we celebrate Digital Inclusion Week in 2018, we will continue to seek out solutions to get everyone online in Seattle. Working together as a community we will get people connected, get them the computer devices they need, and offer support for the skills necessary to be successful in life.