The lack of viable competition in the provision of internet service has been detrimental for marginalized communities ever since the internet became part of the vernacular. Because of the worship of profit, those who would be most in need of the educational and professional benefits are unable to access the internet without excessive surcharge. As society changes to require a more online existence, local governments will need to work more to ensure that everyone has the resources for upward socioeconomic mobility.
First of all, most companies are moving to online transactions. While this may seem innocuous, this actually means that rental conglomerates, power companies, financial institutions, transit entities et al. are reducing the staff required for hardcopy billing and phone transactions in favor of online processing. To be sure, this is good for the environment. However, when internet service is inequitable, this means that those in marginalized areas could be faced with late charges or without the ability to pay in the name of efficiency. This damages people’s credit — which damages their ability to access good jobs and financial opportunities — and increases the stigma already apparent in distressed communities.
Secondly, more jobs in both the public and private sector are allowing employees to telecommute, which can reduce traffic as well as allow more flexibility in work hours. This is also good for the environment as well as potentially reducing the cost of living in some disparate areas. Unfortunately, if the internet service is lacking — or, in the case of many, too expensive — people are unable to claim that amenity, which means that already burdened workers are forced to pay more for the privilege of working. Additionally, there are several training programs that are online which are not only from for-profit, unaccredited entities, but from community colleges and massive open online courses (MOOC). Without internet service, such communities are unable to train for better jobs. Organizing and activism are also moving to the online world to reach more participants, and the digital divide is also dividing the maltreated from their advocates.
Finally, if internet service has few competitors, this means that people in marginalized communities pay more for internet service, either for the tethering surcharge with mobile devices or the monopolization of one service provider in certain areas. These constituents are already paying to work, and in the list of bills required to administratively function in today’s society, are incapable of justifying yet another bill. At one point, there was discussion of treating internet service as a utility, which would have significantly reduced costs and swiftly reduced the digital divide. Unfortunately, companies who have financial resources to be internet service providers also have funds to lobby so that internet as a utility never becomes a reality.
There are so many reasons why it is unconscionable that so many people are without internet service. Most importantly, the portrayal of those people is controlled by those outside the situations. Consequently, people without such resources are determined to be ignorant, against the environment, and comfortable with their current situations. Therefore, it is crucial that government entities at all levels work to break down the digital divide.