BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: The journalism publication CJR weighs into the below-the-radar-battle over rural broadband, highlighting the now-here prospect of a gaping digital divide between the urban and the rural areas of our country.
Iowa: Rural broadband, and the unknown costs of the digital divide, from CJR.org
Ahead of the November 6 elections, CJR invited writers to spotlight stories that deserve closer scrutiny, in their states and beyond, before voters cast their ballots. Read other dispatches from “States of the Union” here.
The last time I almost died was in February. A late winter thaw had made me overconfident in the roads, and so I’d gone out in search of an abandoned pioneer church just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. One hour into the journey and I was stuck on a dirt road, my Mazda caught in an icy rut as sleet came down in sheets. There was no one around for miles. My phone, which has the fanciest data plan Verizon can muster, had no service, no data. I couldn’t see any houses. There was no one to hear me scream.
According to US News and World Report, Iowa is the most connected state in the nation, which presumably means they have a high percentage of households with access to high-speed internet. But the data used for that analysis is deeply flawed. It is easy to find yourself completely unconnected from the wires and signals that pull us all together through our computers and mobile devices.
For those of us in America who are extremely online, it’s easy to think of the internet as the source of our problems—misinformation, Twitter bots, Russian hacking, social media stress. The real source, however, is the huge gap in information services. Despite bipartisan support on the issue, the crisis of America’s digital divide has failed to become a headline grabber or garner any real action from politicians as midterms approach. This information disparity undermines our democracy, hampers how we do journalism, and shapes how Americans interact with the news.