Lawmakers, local business partner to close digital divide gap

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - State and federal lawmakers, the City of Charleston, and a local business are working together to close a gap they call the digital divide. The federal government says it is holding back some low-income citizens from reaching their full potential.

"Whether you are in an urban or rural area, it's hard to find a job, complete an application, operate a small business, or finish your homework without broadband," FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said.

Officials are looking into how the broader use of broadband is impacting society.

"We have to make sure that our young people are equipped with the same tools no matter where they live, no matter what the income of their parents are, to be able to move forward, to be able to compete in a global society," BCSD School District Deputy Superintendent Archie Francini said.

Last year Comcast partnered with school districts statewide to provide affordable internet to families with children getting free or reduced lunch.

"Today I have internet essentials for my kids. It's been a great study tool for my kids," Crystal Thomas said.

Thomas can afford the internet through the program along with 1800 other qualified Charleston metro residents who have enrolled.

Officials say families who can't afford internet are at a great disadvantage because students must be proficient in digital literacy to compete in today's job market.

"People should not have to choose between feeding their families and paying for broadband. Americans need to have access to affordable broadband," Commissioner Clyburn said.

Comcast says 62% of working Americans use the internet as part of their jobs and internet related jobs contribute $300 billion in economic activity nationwide

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