Chicago: Desperately in need of broadband

A recent poll conducted as a partnership between the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois-Chicago shows that 40% of Chicago residents have little to no Internet access.

In a press conference on July 21st Mayor Richard Daley released the report and addressed the issue in the city:

"The study tells us that the magnitude of the digital divide separating low-income Chicago neighborhoods is comparable to the rural-urban divide in broadband use...If we want to improve the quality of life for everyone, we must work to make sure that every resident and business has access to 21st-century technology in their own neighborhoods and homes."

The digital divide problem facing Chicago is not rare. In cities throughout America poorer neighborhoods have little or no access to high speed internet - preventing entire communities from vital financial and educational opportunities. Even libraries and community centers in these regions are not always equipped with the Internet access people need.

A leading researcher with the study, UI political scientist Caroline Tolbert, said:

"Urban areas like Chicago and rural areas like Iowa continue to face the digital divide, and it's a problem that won't go away on its own...Government policy is needed to address inequities in technology access so individuals and communities can benefit both economically and in terms of civic engagement."

Fortunately, progress is on the way. Using federal stimulus dollars and donations from Microsoft, the MacArthur Foundation and others, Mayor Daley announced the launch of a program to give free wireless broadband to the underserved neighborhoods of Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood and Pilsen.

Hawkeye Poll: 40 percent of Chicagoans have little to no Web access

Bridging the Digital Divide

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