For years people have talked about the digital divide. And even on this show I have talked about utilizing technology for empowerment and encouraging people to go as far to learn code to open up opportunities to new employment. But we know we are living in challenging times when not only do people have disproportionate access to the internet, but because of the economy and rising consumer costs have difficulty maintaining cell and home phone service. I was recently working with some young people where nearly a third of the kids in the program had no home or cell service. We all know people who pick up track phones or are able to get prepaid phones, but with nearly 40 million Americans living below the poverty line and unemployment in our community still higher than any other, people are forced to make tough decisions and getting rid of a phone is easier than not having food.
There is a program that I discovered that has been in place since the 80’s to address the need of at risk families to having access to land line service. The program, called the LifeLine program started by the FCC, since 2004 also allows poor and low-income persons to have access to a cell phone with a limited amount of subsidized minutes each month. But like most federal programs it is in danger of losing needed funding or being cut altogether. A phone for most of us is something we take for granted. Many of us have family plans that have everyone in the house on the plan. If you are like me, I am paying for cousin’s in college and god children’s phones too. But there are more American’s than we know that have no way to call 911 in an emergency, allow loved ones to let them know where they are, or access to basic and social communication.