Bridging Madison's Digital Divide

A new proposal in Madison, Wis., aims to bring Internet to a low-income neighborhood to help level the playing field for students in the digital generation.

by / November 6, 2013
e.Republic/David Kidd

On Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, Madison, Wis. Alder Scott Resnick submitted a capital budget amendment that would funnel $150,000 into establishing Internet access in a yet-to-be-determined low-income neighborhood within the city. The plan was supported by several members of the Madison Common Council as well as Mayor Paul Soglin.

“We need to provide students with the educational tools to succeed in today’s economy,” said Resnick. “Relying on schools, libraries and community centers is no longer enough. Our community should not be satisfied that young people must rely on places like McDonald’s to check email and do classroom homework.”

Resnick noted that Internet access is an essential tool in a world that is increasingly connected through digital means. He also stressed the critical importance of bridging the digital divide and providing consistent Internet access to young people in Madison’s poorer neighborhoods.

The Pew Foundation recently found that 88 percent of households earning $75,000 or more have a high-speed Internet connection at home, compared to just 54 percent of households earning less than $30,000. According to a press release, leaders in Madison recognize that this gap represents an enormous handicap, especially as it becomes progressively more important to be digitally adept in today’s workplace.

“Citizen access to the Internet has become a critical component of job hunting; educational needs; transacting household business; utilizing library resources; and communicating with family, neighbors and government,” said Paul Kronberger, Madison CIO. “We need to level the playing field."

IT staff with the city will work with nonprofit leaders in the community as well as a newly formed Digital Technology Committee to begin implementation of the program. A project plan is expected by early summer 2014.