Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A new White House report outlines recommendations to further expand broadband access.
Internet access—deemed “a necessity” by President Obama—still remains elusive to many, according to a new report released by the government’s Broadband Opportunity Council. Nearly 45 million more Americans have adopted broadband access since Obama took office, and more than than 110,000 miles of network infrastructure have been laid, but the country’s digital divide remains stubbornly persistent.
Even where Internet access is available, the connection in many pockets of the country is, quite literally, not up to speed. In the map below, darker blue areas have more households with download speeds of at least 25 megabits a second:
The fixes outlined in the new report mainly focus on attracting broadband investment to underserved communities, but a more comprehensive national digital strategy is still lacking. My colleague Eric Jaffe has argued for Internet infrastructure to be the basis of a national transportation plan—a "broadband superhighway.” Here’s a part of his case for the pairing:
You might not be physically leaving your seat, but you are, in a way, sending a microscopic envoy on an errand for information. You are engaging with something or someone that resides somewhere else.
Cities like New York have taken a similarly innovative approach, coupling new communication infrastructure (broadband) with the vestiges of the old form (pay phones). Both these ideas demonstrate a need for a bolder government strategy that perhaps partners with, but doesn’t solely rely on, private companies to get more people online.