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Nick Lanciani
Professor White
CORE 122 011
25 March 2014
Research Paper
Chasing the Digital Divide
A question many Americans face daily is whether to check their email, cook dinner,
check social media, do work, pick up the kids, do work online, or help their kids do homework
online. Americans that do some or all of the above use Internet and Wi-Fi without giving it a
second thought, unless their connection is bad, or the server is down. Business is booming, both
online and at brick and mortar stores. However, there are many that are still left out of most
online conveniences. No, it has nothing to do with having a Facebook or not- though indirectly it
might. It is not something that can just be retweeted or favorited, and then moved on from as if
nothing happened.
There is something growing in this country, larger than any debt, and it is only going to
get worse, unless a long-term solution is put into action. What started as a chasm is now reaching
Grand Canyon proportions; the digital divide is worsening. The fact that the digital divide covers
more than just having the physical technology was contrasted with previous definitions of what
constituted the digital divide; whether simply having a computer was enough (Mims). A more
accurate definition of the digital divide is illustrated in The New York Times in that typically a
stark racial, economic, and geographic gap [exists] between those who could get online and
those who could not (Crawford) further evidenced by Mossbergers 2003 research that shows
that only 40% of African Americans and 38% of Latinos had Internet access, compared to 60%
of the general population that already had Internet access (Mossberger, Tolbert, and McNeal 99).

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However, bringing the root of the problem, as well as the digital divide full circle, is a more
fitting definition that the digital divide means access plays a key role. Those that have a
computer and high speed Internet, or broadband, have a higher chance of being digital citizensmeaning that said group of people go online on a daily basis and have a higher chance of
interacting with something online (Mossberger, Tolbert, and McNeal 1). So the digital divide
becomes more than just a canyon, it becomes an issue of access and digital media literacy. 54%
of teachers say that their schools have suitable access to the online world, but worry that access
is not as good at home for their students (Teachers). Likewise, roughly 1/3 of the total United
States population does not have access to broadband, or high speed, Internet (Clyburn)- thats
approximately 100 million people without the access to something a majority of Americans
utilize and take for granted everyday. By definition- and in conjunction with the numbers that
supplement the definition- the digital divide is something that impacts everyday life, economics,
and business in America. The tools necessary to fix the digital divide, just might be the reasons
for it and answer to it. Of the most important, access ranks at the top. However, like many things
in American government, the debate of how to go about implementing proper access and what
kind of infrastructure will be necessary perplexes our government and stalls the course of action.
Republicans, Democrats, and even Libertarians all have different views on the digital divide, and
sorting through each can be difficult until one is assigned a paper to do just that.
Republicans tend to view the digital divide as something that is not as big as what others
make it out to be, with some exceptions, namely Senator John McCain. While most Republicans
view the digital divide as a privatized matter that should be dealt with in a privatized manner,
Senator McCain stresses the importance of acting now. Already behind in their progress online,
the Republican Party, as it is right now, is slow to grasp the importance of technology and its
utilization as well as implementations into the American lifestyle among day-to-day issues. In

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fact, even in the midst of a digital divide that does not fully reach them, they are struggling as
well, behind the political side; behind the Democrats (Mims). In the last election alone, the
Democrats were able to appeal to the demographics they needed to seek the vote of, and took
their political campaigns online. Republicans struggled to even reach the demographic most
sought after (18 to 24 year olds).
Republican viewpoint, lends the digital divide to fix itself, and that in time, the people
will correct the issue. In accordance to the theory, Internet based service and applications are
spreading quickly throughout the country and that, once prices stabilize and come down, all
Americans will be able to afford and be provided with substantial access to broadband (Thierer).
Thus private sector companies and big businesses take control of the expansion of broadband and
the digital divide becomes not a government issue, but potentially a monopoly issue with a lack
of competition. Sound too slow of a process? There may appear to be hope in the form of Senator
McCain. McCain was once quoted as having said on the Senate floor that in order to successfully
deal with the digital divide we must continue to cross the digital divide and not fall victim to it.
Failure to do this may result in what is a manageable digital divide today, evolving into an
unmanageable digital gulf tomorrow (McCain Floor Statements). The United States, in order
to maintain global competitor status must work on the divide sooner rather than later, as McCain
also mentions. Essentially, the digital divide today only exists as a small problem, a small
proportion, of what it will become tomorrow, next month, next year, and so on. Something
shared, similar to Democrats, by McCain, sees an equal counterpart of many people working to
eliminate the divide.
The Democratic stance, for the most part, seeks to bridge the divide. The Federal
Communications Commission stresses the importance of inclusion of everyone in the online
world. Substantial differences in ethnicity and access as well as use of the Internet vary across

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the board. Latinos and African Americans seem to be among the largest groups among the divide.
50% of rural Americans do not have access to stable and substantial broadband (Cyburn). All of
this lends itself to some action that must be taken to close the gap, which is why the FCC
advocates to close the divide and presents the numbers that back it up. Former President Bill
Clinton even, was the first to recognize how much of an issue the digital divide might become.
Clinton worked with the Commerce Department to work in collaboration with members of the
private sector to address the need for increasing access and Internet service across the nation
(Hillebrand). The main goal was to establish public support for closing the gap in conjunction
with private entities wishing to do the same. In essence, public plans of infrastructure would be
put in motion and built, while how the public is taught of the technology would fall into line with
the private aspect, and vice versa depending on specifics of each communities needs and capital
available. Typically, Democrats have seen the digital divide as something that falls in line with
rights that should not be infringed upon or denied. Especially in todays online world, where
business is conducted, social media status is updated, applications for jobs are conducted, etc.
being a part of the digital realm is more important than ever. Therefore, it is safe to say that
having access to the digital portal is as important as a necessity, such as food, water, and shelter.
However, the Libertarians offer an even more intriguing take on the digital divide and plausible
In plain terms the Libertarian view on most anything is big freedom, little government.
So, the issue will solve itself, perhaps. Yet, Libertarians recognize the existence of a problem in
that roughly 19 million Americans cannot even get access to fixed broadband, with nearly threequarters of them living in rural areas (Bhagnari). What is even more noteworthy is that Native
Americans are largely overlooked in comparison to other minorities concerning the digital
divide. Nearly a third of Native Americans cannot get access to broadband, especially in rural

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locations (Bhagnari). An increased notion of relying on the cloud instead of more concrete
broadband is highly discussed, however much infrastructure is still needed. Let alone who is to
be the one to construct anything before any real impact is made. While Libertarians see a major
issue with the digital divide, not all are in cahoots with making the government foot a large
portion of the bill. So much like the Republicans, Libertarians would rather see this issue be
solved in the private market, big business, laissez faire aspect. For the large part, most people are
still concerned with change in general and worry about futurity and how any ridiculous amount
of money spent on instituting Internet access would have on education. However, others are
strictly speaking about excessive budgeting and forgoing the notion of public funding for such an
issue of basic needs to be online (Murdock). So all of this is important as ever and all political
voices are worth being heard. But where does someone- like a centrist- fit in?
Well, not that anyone really asked, other than the guidelines of this assignment, but I still
must inform my audience of my view for what it is worth- hopefully two cents, at least. Being
not much of a political person, I am but merely standing in the middle. A combination of great
ideas fulfilling the basic needs of immediate action, as well as the long-term goals of things
taking care of themselves is realistically the best compromise and means of progress. I am
neither Republican nor Democrat; Libertarian nor Moderate. I simply would like to see the gap
in the digital divide no longer exist. Ideas of some government directed programs that roll out
initiatives to take on the digital divide, in conjunction with a plausible solution where private
businesses, private foundations- like the Knight Foundation, take the means to raise awareness
and tackle the digital divide are a good start. However, there are limits of charity, as discussed by
Hilfiker, coming into play. Hilfiker argues that charity only puts off the problem, and is not a
notion of the justice-oriented citizen (Hilfiker 81). Alas, what the Knight Foundation does and
provides for people to get digitally involved is merely temporary and cannot become a long-term

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solution. The digital divide must be taken care of now, once and for all, instead of being further
delayed and continuing to worsen. So whether it is a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or
whomever putting forth an idea, as long as it rids of the digital divide, now and in the long term,
why not seek a means of implementation?
The digital divide is larger than just an American issue. The digital divide happens on a
global scale. Yet, in order to affect anything global, we must first get everyone on board and
online, domestically speaking. Whether for pure pleasure or for the protection of our posterity
and futurity as a nation, it is compelling that America act on the digital divide that continues to
grow without regulation, or notice in the mainstream. The fact of the matter is that the digital
divide effects the mainstream and trends in all forms of social media, electronic business, etc. It
entails someone that is missing out on an opportunity, whether it is the person not connected, or
the business owner who cannot make a sale if s/he cannot reach his/her clients. There is a lot of
potential, and there has been growth, but think about how much more there would be, if only we
stopped chasing after the digital divide and conquered it once and for all.

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Works Cited
Bhagnari, Rahul. "SimCity and the Digital Divide." The Libertarian Post,
12 Mar. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Clyburn, Mignon. "Official FCC Blog Print Email." Crossing the Digital Divide. Federal
Communications Commission, 7 June 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Crawford, Susan P. "The New Digital Divide." The New York Times. The New York Times, 03
Dec. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Hilfiker, David. "The Limits of Charity." Editorial. Modern Citizenship; CORE 122 Spring 2014
2000: 77-81. Print.
Hillebrand, Mary. "Clinton Launches Initiative To Bridge Digital Divide." E-Commerce Times:
E-Business Means Business. ECT News Network, 10 Dec. 1999. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
McCain, John. "Floor Statements." Floor Statement of Senator John McCain on Digital and
Wireless Network Technology Act of 2003., 30 Apr. 2003. Web. 23
Mar. 2014.
Mims, Christopher. "There is No Digital Divide." MIT Technology Review. MIT Technology
Review, 31 May 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Mossberger, Karen, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Ramona S. McNeal. Digital Citizenship: The
Internet, Society, and Participation. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. Print.
Murdock, Deroy. "Digital Divide? What Digital Divide?" Cato Institute. Cato Institute, 16 June
2000. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
"Teachers See Digital Divide among Students." Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research
Center, 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Thierer, Adam D. "A "Digital Divide" or a Deluge of Opportunity?" The Heritage Foundation.
The Heritage Foundation, 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.