Why Rural America’s Digital Divide Persists


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Bogus maps and broken bureaucracies can have real world harm.

Shira: Why can’t the Derry family access internet service at home?

Cecilia: If your census area has one home with fast internet service, the government logs everyone else as having access, too, even if they don’t. The Derrys only are able to buy internet service that’s a throwback to the early 2000s, but one of their neighbors has the option of fast internet service.

Whose fault is this?

The internet providers are overreporting where their service reaches, and the Federal Communications Commission has allowed them to get away with it for years.

OK, play policy maker: What would fix this problem?

More accountability in the U.S.F. program is a good first step, and arguably it needs more funding.

There’s a debate in Congress over whether coronavirus-related stimulus programs are an opportunity to solve rural internet gaps. With schools closed and more people working from home, Democrats and Republicans both generally agree now with the principle of getting fast internet to every American. They disagree on how.

The telecommunications companies will not serve the Derry family out of the goodness of their heart. There needs to be a financial incentive.

We want to hear from our readers who don’t have fast and reliable internet at home. How has this affected you? How do you and your family manage? Tell us at ontech@nytimes.com; please include your full name and location. We may publish a selection of responses.

His supporters shared videos or posts that they said supported the president’s remarks, and hucksters also seized on his comments to promote their unproven or dangerous “cures.”

This is a now familiar pattern. Information is almost never neutral.

People share online the ideas that conform to their political views, and people who have something to sell use tantalizing information as a business opportunity. The big internet companies like YouTube and Facebook have a tough time making and enforcing rules about what posts or videos are harmful.

It’s a mess. And there’s no way to fix it other than becoming more aware of the mess.

“We all have a responsibility to be vigilant about all the forces at work,” Davey told me.

“That means being aware of opportunists, for-profit companies that want to protect their bottom lines and look politically neutral, and hyperpartisan followers and conspiracy theorists.”



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