A new poll of Detroit residents supports the need for a strategic, city-led approach to bridge the digital divide.
The survey of 600 Detroit adults, conducted in April and May 2022 by Washington, D.C.-based GQR, reveals that two in three Detroiters believe the digital divide in Detroit is a big deal, and 83 percent favor a public. fast internet network where the city is building a fiber optic infrastructure.
Multiple providers gain access to the same fiber infrastructure, which promotes competition and lowers costs for customers.
The investigation followed the April announcement of Detroit’s plan to bring high-speed Internet access to Hope Village on the west side of the city, with the long-term goal of installing a fiber network in the city that would make high-speed Internet services accessible to any home at a lower price.
Hope Village was selected for an initial $10 million pilot project because the area experienced an extended internet outage during the height of the pandemic.
“Detroit joins more than 600 cities across the country that have already successfully established a municipal network,” said Joshua Edmonds, director of digital inclusion in Detroit. “Through several existing funding sources, including the American Rescue Plan Act, we are committed to giving every Detroiter the opportunity to take full advantage of a growing digital world. This survey demonstrates the need for digital access and the desire of our residents who are eager to participate.”
The survey findings include:
- 20 percent of Detroit adults do not have an Internet connection at home, with 1 in 4 reporting that they cannot install broadband service in their home.
- 63 percent of Detroiters without broadband say they would probably opt for it if an affordable option were available.
- 1 in 5 parents reported a lack of reliable internet service during the pandemic, forcing their children to complete their schoolwork on public Wi-Fi, a cell phone, or not at all.
- 77 percent of respondents believe that the government has a responsibility to expand access to high-speed internet.
- 78 percent strongly agree that “expanding broadband access in low-income or disadvantaged areas is important for America’s economic future.” Furthermore, 3 in 4 strongly agree that this “will help create jobs and grow the economy in those areas”.
GQR conducted the survey on behalf of Connect 313, a community partnership formed as part of a citywide, data-driven digital inclusion strategy. With funding from the Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation and Connect for Humanities, the city has commissioned an initial research, engineering and network design study.
“By bringing high-speed Internet to every home and business in Detroit, we’re continuing our city’s renaissance and securing our top spot in the global marketplace,” said Edmonds. “We must seize this opportunity to keep our citizens fully and fully empowered in the 21”st century.”
The next public meeting to discuss Detroit’s plan to begin installing an automated open access network will take place June 29 from 2-4 p.m. at Focus:HOPE, 1400 Oakman Blvd., Detroit.