Heading toward the end of his second term, President Obama is rightly gearing up an important initiative to help lower income people gain access to the Internet. This has broad implications for people of all ages who might otherwise be left out in the cold with regard to a “connection” that most Americans take for granted.
The Internet is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity, for kids who want to do their homework, for people who want to find jobs, for access to emergency contacts, for families who want to communicate with each other.
For lower-income families, the separation from Internet connections further removes them from the mainstream. Opportunities pass them by.
The single mom in public housing, for example, may never know of after-school opportunities for her children. Kids might lose out on “extra credit” work for school offered in online classes. For that matter, they might miss out on those classes altogether.
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And job seekers are truly out of luck if they can’t hook up to sites listing work opportunities.
So the Obama White House is gearing up a pilot program to offer free Internet connections in some areas, and in others broadband connections at good discounts, reports The New York Times. President Obama has stated he wants every community in the United States to have Internet access.
The first part of the program will focus on public housing areas where there are schoolage children. Some will get tablets with educational software for $30. There will be other offerings that include helping young people prepare for the SAT. And Google Fiber is going to offer free Internet connections to some public housing residents in select cities.
Happily, one of those cities is Durham.
The president previously announced an initiative to connect virtually all students in the country to the Internet through high-speed connections in classrooms and libraries over the next five years.
This public-private plan is creative, constructive and, for the country, practical. A better-informed population is going to be better educated on everything from schoolwork to the workings of our democracy. Better students and better citizens will be the result.
The Internet has become like electricity or running water. It’s simply something that Americans must have and, in a civilized society, deserve to have.