A report released today on Connecticut’s “digital divide” -- commissioned by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and Dalio Education, and researched and written by John Horrigan of the Technology Policy Institute – found the problem is most acute in Connecticut’s cities, and is disproportionately impacting communities of color, students, and older adults.
CCM and Dalio Education also commissioned a public opinion survey – conducted by Global Strategy Group – to gauge public opinion on the report’s findings. The survey, which was conducted from September 14-18, 2020, found that an overwhelming percentage of Connecticut likely voters found the digital divide to be a “very concerning” problem, especially as it impacts communities of color and students.
Key findings from the survey can be found here.
The report and survey were the subject of a Zoom press conference hosted by CCM and Dalio Education.
“While we have known for awhile that the digital divide is a real problem in Connecticut, this report puts a fine point on two key issues that haven’t gotten as much attention,” said Joe DeLong, CCM’s Executive Director. “This problem is felt most acutely in our cities, and it disproportionately impacts communities of color. Given the changes the pandemic has made us adapt to, it is not an exaggeration to say that this is a crisis that must be addressed and addressed now in a way that is enduring and statewide.”
“This is a statewide problem that needs to be addressed at the state and federal levels, because it’s not just Connecticut; this is an issue across the country. Beginning today, we at CCM intend to advocate for a comprehensive solution to this problem.”
“The stories we started hearing back in March when schools were closed were heartbreaking,” said Barbara Dalio, Founder and Director of Dalio Education. “A single mother working two nursing shifts, then coming home at 11 o’clock, piling her children into a car and driving to a McDonald’s parking lot so the kids could access a Wi-Fi hotspot to try and do their homework. Other kids alone at home, isolated, because their day care center was shut down, adults unable to go online to search for a job or file for unemployment benefits because their Internet connection was inadequate. We were proud to work with state leaders to contribute more than $19 million to purchase 60,000 laptops and provide child care for some of our health care workers, and thanks to a creative collaboration with Joe, CCM, and local foundations we were able to provide city wide access to Wi-Fi in Hartford and Norwalk. But this crisis is beyond what any one philanthropic organization can address.”
“Listen, I give Barbara and her team at Dalio Education an enormous amount of credit for moving so quickly with state leaders, early on, to purchase those 60,000 laptops and to do what they did in Hartford and Norwalk,” said DeLong. “But she’s right; this isn’t a problem the philanthropic community can solve.”
“I also want to acknowledge what the Lamont Administration has done over the past year to address this problem, starting with them adding $5 million to the $19 million donation from Barbara Dalio to purchase the 60,000 laptops last Spring. Subsequent to that, in July, they launched the Everybody Learns Initiative – at a cost of about $43 million – to purchase more laptops, at home Internet connections, and public Wi-Fi hotspots. Finally, more recently they funded the reopening of libraries to provide access to reliable internet, devices, and a safe space to work for students in urban and rural areas.”
“But more needs to be done for an enduring statewide solution. Government needs to step in here and make the kind of investment in our digital infrastructure that will permanently level the playing field – for our students and their parents,” added DeLong. “And while yes, this is a crisis for our students – we know there are thousands of kids who haven’t logged on once since their schools were shut down – it’s also an economic issue. There are adults who can’t search for jobs online, they can’t file for unemployment benefits – really, they can’t do much because access to the Internet has become that important. And we know that people and businesses outside of Connecticut are looking at our state with a fresh set of eyes, because all of a sudden living and working in a crowded urban environment isn’t so attractive. We should take advantage of this opportunity and commit to making universal access to high-speed Internet service a reality in Connecticut.”
“Let’s see what happens a week from today on Election Day. I’m hopeful that once the campaign season is over, Democrats and Republicans can come together in Congress to pass the kind of massive stimulus package that focuses on infrastructure – including, obviously, our digital infrastructure,” continued DeLong. “This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to eliminate the digital divide in Connecticut and beyond.”