Thirty-four percent of people living in Mississippi will have trouble viewing this article. Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of the population without access to fixed broadband, is struggling to bridge the digital divide between the wealthy and the poor, the urban and the rural, the white and the black.
The number of poor, rural communities in the Magnolia State presents a challenge to Internet providers because of the high expense of reaching those lowly populated areas. The high costs often lead providers to avoid investing in these communities, leaving residents searching for alternative ways to access the Internet, such as public libraries.
In a day and age where the Internet runs the world, not having sufficient access can put you lightyears behind. Whether it’s searching for jobs, applying for jobs, connecting with businesses or even simply sending emails, not having the Internet readily available to you instantly sets you behind.
Roberto Gallardo, a professor at Mississippi State University and a grassroots organizer who makes long trips through the state to lobby for faster Internet, said not having fast Internet is detrimental to a person’s socioeconomic wellbeing.
“When I get the question ‘Why should I pay more for faster Internet? Why would I want faster Internet?’” Gallardo said, “I respond, ‘That’s like asking 100 years ago why I want electricity when I already use candles.’”
The Center for Public Integrity finalized a detailed report showing the disparity between the affluent and the poor’s access to broadband. The story reported that more than 13 percent of low-income areas in the United States don’t have access to broadband. That 13 percent is nearly five times higher than the rate of access in the wealthiest areas in the country. Even in urban areas, the report found substantial difference in Internet access between wealthy and poor.
Gallardo sees Internet access for youth as a great tool to escaping poverty.
“I believe that technology … can help level the playing field,” Gallardo told Darnell Moore in a Mic.com video. “Not only between urban and rural, but among different socioeconomic and demographic groups.”
Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of African Americans, is last out of 50 in states when it comes to high-speed access and is joined by Montana (31 percent) and West Virginia (30 percent) at the bottom of the barrel. Montana and West Virginia are also states that enjoy a lot of rural settings, but interestingly enough, Montana has the lowest percentage of African Americans in the country.
Image credit: Yazan Badran/Flickr
Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.