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Bridging the digital divide

Technology Town Hall organizes access

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

Gerald Smith, the senior manager of government affairs for Detroit at Comcast, believes technology can be the great equalizer- giving people and especially children from all socio-economic backgrounds the ability to compete in today’s digital world. Sadly, according to a Pew Study, Smith says, 40 percent of people below the poverty line don’t have Internet service.  When this statistic is applied to demographic realities, it means a majority of African Americans living in urban centers, Detroit among them, don’t have access to the Internet.  The same is true for people living in rural areas.

This creates a phenomenon called “the digital divide,” Smith explains. “This technology that has not been accessible to people of low income creates a separation between those who have, and those who have not.” This is both a race and class based reality, he says.

Smith worries that people without the means to get online won’t be able to do homework, apply for a job or pay bills. Quoting a colleague David Cohen, Smith told the Michigan Citizen, “Online access is not an option; it’s is a necessity.”

Comcast want to help Detroiters bridge the divide.  On Oct. 19 from 8:30-11 a.m. they will host a technology town hall meeting in the auditorium of Wayne County Community College downtown Detroit campus (1001 W. Fort St.). Smith, along with State Sen. Coleman A. Young II and Rev. Horace Sheffield discuss how technology can enhance the lives of Detroiters and how economically struggling families can gain access to technology. The meeting will also be broadcast live on 1200AM and 99.9FM.  In addition to the panel discussion, Comcast will be giving away a few netbooks and enrolling low-income families without Internet service in a program that will connect them for $9.95 a month.  In order to qualify for that rate, families must have a child that qualifies for free or reduced lunch, live in the Comcast service area, and has no history of unpaid Comcast bills or unreturned equipment. According to Smith, Comcast services 95 percent of the city. He promises the $9.95 rate will not change throughout the child’s primary and secondary studies.

For more information on the town hall or Internet access call: 1.855.8.INTERNET (1855.846.8376)


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