U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin joined a discussion with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, U.S. Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence, and Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist on closing the digital divide. The virtual event, Connecting Michigan: From Internet Inequality to Digital Equity, highlighted the inequities the digital divide presents both urban and rural communities across the state of Michigan.
“Broadband access is an issue that binds together urban, suburban and rural communities,” Slotkin said. “We have to start thinking about internet access as a public utility – like electricity, water or telephone service, it’s something that we all require to function in a modern society. And yet too many homes in my district and across Michigan lack access to reliable internet service, lack service with the bandwidth equal to the demands of school or work, or lack devices that allow them to interact with the internet. COVID-19 has stretched these inequalities even farther, and this crisis is a moment to recognize the impact that has on students, workers and families.”
Slotkin noted challenges she has heard from education leaders in Livingston County as well as Lansing, who cite a lack of broadband access, bandwidth, as well as devices as issues impacting students in the era of remote learning, as well as workers in underserved areas. The absence of broadband internet access has become especially acute as schools have tried to move to distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Just down the road from me, in Hartland, Michigan, over 20 percent of the students have no access to the internet,” Slotkin said. :Teachers are literally copying worksheets and dropping them off in students’ mailboxes so learning can take place.”
Slotkin called on Congressional leaders to prioritize strong investments in broadband as Congress debates legislation to help our nation reopen and rebuild.