COVID-19 has forced both routine and critical activities to the internet, ranging from school, commerce, and employment, to essential government services. Internet connectivity has also helped to reduce community spread by allowing people to maintain physical distance and, for some, has alleviated the pressure of social isolation. But despite the increased need for high-speed, reliable internet access, many Americans are still struggling to bridge the digital divide—especially in communities of color, where a lack of broadband access reinforces systemic inequality. How can we prevent the combination of historical discrimination and pandemic shutdowns from further threatening vulnerable communities?
On August 25, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a webinar to discuss the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the digital landscape and why expanding internet access to all is a crucial step toward mitigating systemic inequality in America. Speakers examined the availability and adoption of the internet among small businesses, schools, and other vital community organizations during the pandemic and discuss the role of government, industry, and civil society organizations in championing more equitable broadband connectivity for communities with a greater need for support.