Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs Page: 4 of 36
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Broadband Internet Access and the Digital
Divide: Federal Assistance Programs
The "digital divide" is a term used to describe a perceived gap between
perceived "information haves and have-nots," or in other words, between those
Americans who use or have access to telecommunications technologies (e.g.,
telephones, computers, the Internet) and those who do not.1 Whether or not
individuals or communities fall into the "information haves" category depends on a
number of factors, ranging from the presence of computers in the home, to training
and education, to the availability of affordable Internet access. A series of reports
issued by the Department of Commerce2 (DOC) during the Clinton Administration
argued that a "digital divide" exists, with many rural citizens, certain minority
groups, and low-income Americans tending to have less access to
telecommunications technology than other Americans.3
In February 2002, the Bush Administration's Department of Commerce
released its first survey report on Internet use, entitled A Nation Online: How
Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet.4 While acknowledging a
disparity in usage between "information haves and have nots," the report focused on
the increasing rates of Internet usage among traditionally underserved groups:
In every income bracket, at every level of education, in every age group, for
people of every race and among people of Hispanic origin, among both men and
women, many more people use computers and the Internet now than did so in the
recent past. Some people are still more likely to be Internet users than others.
Individuals living in low-income households or having little education, still trail
The term "digital divide" can also refer to international disparities in access to information
technology. This report focuses on domestic issues only.
2 See U.S. Department of Commerce, Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion,
released October 2000.
3 Not all observers agree that a "digital divide" exists. See, for example: Thierer, Adam D.,
Divided Over the Digital Divide, Heritage Foundation, March 1, 2000.
4 Department of Commerce, A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use
of the Internet, February 2002. Based on a September 2001 Census Bureau survey of 57,000
households. See [http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/index.html].
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Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs, report, August 22, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc817532/m1/4/: accessed November 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.