What is the digital divide, and how can we bridge it?

The digital divide has come to the center of attention during the last two years. The pandemic exposed the gaps in internet service with the need to work from home and go to school virtually. As a result, it’s more apparent that the internet has become a must-have for our daily lives. However, many people still don’t have access to high-speed internet, leading to inequality. Because of that, the digital divide is something we are working relentlessly to close. Today, we’ll define the digital divide and how we’re acting to bridge it. 

What is the digital divide?

The digital divide is the gap between those who can use technology and those who cannot. It’s a problem that has been around for years, but it’s come into the spotlight more recently with the pandemic. In addition, the need to suddenly work from home or do virtual school has exposed the gaps in internet service for many people.

The internet has become critical for modern life, but many people still don’t have access to it. An estimated 42 million Americans can’t purchase broadband internet for reasons ranging from financial, geographic, and service limitations. The lack of access to the internet divides society and limits opportunities for those who don’t have the internet. Because of this, we are working relentlessly to close the digital divide, and today we’ll share what it is.

Factors that Impact the Digital Divide

Cost

Internet and computer devices can be expensive, putting them out of reach for many people. As inflation rises, 64% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Extra expenses like high-speed internet can be the difference between food on the table or not. At Race, we offer affordable high-speed internet to help combat the digital divide. 

Race and Ethnicity 

Race can also impact the digital divide. Minorities are more likely to live in poverty, with 25.4% of Native Americans and 20.8% of African Americans living in poverty, nearly doubly the poverty rate of their white neighbors (10.1%). Living in poverty undoubtedly makes it harder to afford internet and computer devices. Additionally, areas of high poverty typically don’t have access to the same quality of education. This lack of quality can often limit a school’s ability to use and teach technology.

Education 

When the pandemic hit and schools went virtual, more than a quarter of K–12 students (29%) lacked reliable internet access in spring 2020, leaving them without a path forward to learn. However, many school districts or parents in higher-income areas were able to provide students with the tools necessary to succeed. Unfortunately, this left a gap in the education in communities that were not well-funded, leading to a less than quality education. We need to ensure everyone has access to quality education and the technology to make it possible. 

Location 

Your location also plays a role in access. Many rural areas of the country still do not have access to high-speed internet. Geographical location played a big part in the problems with accessibility during the pandemic as people who lived in rural areas struggled to work from home or do virtual school. According to the Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, roughly seven-in-ten rural Americans (72%) say they have a broadband internet connection at home. 

How does it affect society?

The digital divide affects society in several ways. In short, it creates unfairness and limits opportunities for those who don’t have the internet. Let’s explore how it does this further. 

Social Isolation

The divide can lead to social isolation. People without the internet are cut off from communication and information easily accessible to others. 

Limits Job Opportunities

The digital divide has a significant effect on the workplace. In today’s job market, increased computer skill levels are a prerequisite. However, the demand for these skills creates unfairness in society and limits opportunities for those who don’t have them. 

For example, many job applications are online, so you’re already at a disadvantage if you don’t have internet access. In addition, having the money to have a computer with a webcam and high-speed internet to work from home on zoom calls presents a barrier to entry. 

Impacts education 

25% of students lack an adequate internet connection. The lack of access became a glaringly obvious problem during the pandemic when kids across the country moved to virtual learning. Unfortunately, many homes were not set up with the equipment or internet services to make a move to online learning. However, that isn’t the only challenge. Many homework assignments now utilize the internet leaving kids behind who don’t have access. 

What is being done to close the digital divide?

At Race, we’re committed to closing the digital divide and ensuring everyone has access to the internet. We’re doing this by working with government, industry, and community partners to:

  • Increase access to affordable broadband
  • Improve digital literacy
  • Connect people in underserved communities

We know that we can’t close the digital divide alone, so we’re working with our partners. Here are some ways we are working together to bridge the divide. 

California Advanced Services Fund (CASF)

The California Public Utilities Commission has helped bridge the digital divide through the use of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) since 2008. CASF helps bring broadband to underserved and unserved communities throughout California, aiming to close the digital divide. The goal is to close the digital divide by bringing broadband to 98% of households in each consortia region by December 31, 2022. 

Internet Act For All 

The Internet Act For All was reintroduced in the house on 3/11/2021. The act will make high-speed broadband internet service accessible and affordable to all Americans. In addition, the bill will provide discounts on broadband for low-income consumers and subsidize the internet for schools and libraries. The Internet Act for All is a significant step forward to bridge the digital divide. 

Computer Literacy Training 

Many cities, libraries, and companies offer free digital literacy training to bridge the divide. These classes work to give everyone foundational skills that will help achieve equity at school and work closing and is a pivotal part of eliminating the digital divide. 

How Race is Working to Bridge the Digital Divide 

Race is dedicated to providing reliable, accessible, high-speed internet by building new fiber networks and infrastructures. We worked to bring our fiber optic networks to underserved or unserved communities so they can have equal access. 

Race Communications works with the California Public Utilities Commission and other advocacy groups to build new networks in these communities. Race has received California grants to cover up to 60 percent of construction costs, including the labor, equipment, and materials required to bring fiber or cable internet to a region; however, it does not include operational costs. 

Final Thoughts

The digital divide is a problem that has been around for years, but it’s come into the spotlight more recently with the pandemic. The need to work from home and participate in virtual school exposed the gaps in internet service for many people. At Race, we’re working hard to close the digital divide and ensure everyone has access to the internet. Closing the digital divide will create more opportunities and a better society. 

Cyber-security: How to keep your children safe!

The Internet is a great resource for you and your family. At the touch of a button, you have access to a world of knowledge and entertainment. Sadly, the internet is also a dangerous place to hang out – particularly for children. Nearly 60% of teens have received an email or instant message from a stranger – half of them have replied. With summer approaching, the potential for children to wind up on dangerous sites increases since kids have more free time and that usually means more screen time.

So what can you do? Just to get started, let’s list some things you can do almost immediately to help keep your kids safe while they’re online.

It won’t take a lot of time to try these suggestions, and while we’ll talk later on about setting up parental controls through your Race router, the following steps can give you some peace of mind until you can do so.

    1. Place computers in a common area of the house:
      Don’t allow kids to have a computer in their room. You’d be surprised by how much the mere presence of a parent who may or may not be looking over a child’s shoulder while they use the computer can keep a child in line. They have no way of knowing if your eyes are good enough to see across the room, now do they? Make sure the computer’s screen is visible from other parts of the room and isn’t turned toward a wall.
    2. Set reasonable time and usage limits:
      Set rules about what your child can and can’t do when on the internet. Set time limits on their computer use. If they say they’re researching homework, maybe you don’t include that in the time limits – but make sure they’re using it for homework.
    3. Discuss the dangers of the web with your child:
      Sit down and discuss the dangers of the internet. Talk openly and honestly about what’s out there and the kind of stuff they want to avoid. Forewarned is forearmed.
    4. Teach them to protect their privacy
      While they won’t fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should still make sure your children know:
      * Never to give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
      * Not to open e-mail from people they don’t know
      * Not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
      * Not to get together with anyone they “meet” online.
    5. Keep the youngsters out of online chat rooms, and do your best to reinforce the old rule, “never talk to strangers.”:
      Chat rooms are a popular place for sex offenders to meet their prey. If possible, keep your kids out of chat rooms altogether. Make sure your child knows that no matter how nice an online “friend” may seem to be, they are still a stranger, and may not be who they appear to be. ​
    6. Know Passwords:
      Be upfront with your children that you will need to have their passwords for all of their devices and for all of their social media sites. Once you have the passwords, check these sites regularly to see what your child is seeing and posting.
    7. NEVER let your child upload or download photos without your permission:
      Online predators will often send photos supposedly of themselves or request photos of the child.

Turn your ISP into your ally
Before buying any safety product, experts recommend that you work with what you’ve got, starting with your Internet service provider – hopefully that is us at Race Communications!

Your Gigafy Me router includes free parental controls that can limit children’s access to websites and communication features (e-mail, instant messaging, chat) by the time of day and other variables. If you don’t have a router rental through Race, give us a call to have that added or if you have any questions about these features.

Gigafy your life, Gigafy your business!

Our projects don’t just consist of homes and families that need better connectivity – our communities are also filled with small business owners. We know that adequate broadband is a necessity for businesses in today’s digital age and we can’t wait to see what many of the local business owners can do with our ultra-high speed Internet.

With our expansion into new communities, we feel that we should address and clarify some key differences between residential services and business offerings.

  • Our business plans are not just limited to commercial buildings – if you live and work from home (content writer, graphic designer, web developer, etc) and feel that a business plan may be right for you then you are welcomed to sign up for our business broadband services.
  • A key difference between business and residential plans is that while Race offers static IP addresses, it is only offered to businesses. Unfortunately, Race does not offer static IP options for residential customers. So if you need a static IP, a business plan is the way to go.
  • While we only offer two plans for residential customers, Race offers a variety of plans for businesses starting at just $60/month.
  • Race offers fiber-based phone service for the highest-quality voice calls. Our unlimited phone lines come with nationwide calling and very low international rates. Our business plans are just $35/month – that is a bargain compared to any of our competitors!
  • We have dedicated business representatives that can assist you every step of the way – from order to install!

We also offer broadband services and tailored solutions for enterprise clients – for a business or enterprise quote, contact Chris Hajj at 877-722-3833 and dial extension 129.

 

Race Communications’ Summer Review.

2018 has been filled with releases, events, and expansion for Race Communications. In May, the company officially opened a new office in Tehachapi, CA where the company has a strong fiber footprint in the outlying communities of Stallion Springs, Brite Valley, Oak Knolls and Bear Valley Springs. Race has hired several local residents to build their marketing and sales team and is revving up their efforts in their service areas in the High Desert and Central Valley.

The month of May also brought the release of the first part of the “Gigafy Phelan” project, a hard-fought project that was approved in July 2017, after years of challenges and obstacles.

Since June 2018, Race has installed 98% of the residents who had previously inquired about service in the released zone – the release came two full months ahead of the initial target date of August 2018. “Gigafy Phelan” was not the only project to be released – the “Gigafy Occidental” project in Northern California was also released and installs began immediately. At this time over 70 percent of the community has signed up for services from Race.

The release of these communities has given Race the momentum to continue their expansion and Race opened a new field operations office in Phelan, CA and marked the occasion with a BBQ Kick-Off and ribbon cutting ceremony on June 21st. The company was recognized by Congressman Cook’s office for their efforts in the area and for their continued work in rural unserved and underserved areas across the state.

 

Race looks forward to the second half of 2018 and continued progress. Race is on a mission to provide affordable high-speed broadband to the communities where larger carriers have ignored the needs of the residents. Race will continue to support net-neutrality, promote broadband access and adoption, and will continue to seek out new projects in unserved and underserved regions in California.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to those who have chosen Race as their new service provider as we could not have done this without you. Our customers are part of the Race family, and we look forward to providing our customers with the newest technology and the friendly customer service they have come to know.  Stay tuned for more exciting news from Race as the year progresses!