Educational and economic opportunity, as well as health outcomes, depend on the availability of affordable, high-speed Internet access. The COVID-19 pandemic—and in particular society’s increasing reliance on reliable high-speed broadband Internet access during the crisis—has accelerated and magnified these existing disparities. As the essential tasks of living, such as learning, job seeking, and accessing health care, move online, Internet access is increasingly becoming an issue of educational equality and economic opportunity, one that disproportionately hurts low-income families and minorities.
The lack of precise broadband deployment data complicates this issue and attempts to remedy the “digital divide.” Current FCC broadband maps rely on census block data that overestimates the number of households with Internet access and lacks fine-grained detail. With a grant from data.org, our team will innovate new, powerful data science approaches that gather and aggregate multiple data sources to produce accurate broadband maps. We will also create an Internet measurement and performance toolkit that will allow policymakers, administrators, and the public to locate and understand the gaps in Internet coverage and target critical resource investments among communities most in need.
Interdisciplinary researchers at the University of Chicago, including the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and the Office of Civic Engagement, will work with Chicago Public Schools and civic non-profit organization Kids First and urban solutions accelerator City Tech Collaborative to develop technical tools and data that meet the needs of stakeholders and community members, reducing inequities in high-speed Internet access.
Read more about the motivation for the project and follow its progress on CDAC postdoctoral researcher Jamie Saxon’s blog.