Earlier this month, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released an interactive map that starkly illustrates the geographic, economic and racial disparities in broadband access across the country.
The map takes a range of public and private data — including speed tests, percentage of downloads and census data relating to households that have internet access — and applies it to census blocks.
Oak Park and Austin are separated by one street, Austin Boulevard, but the digital divide is wide.
None of the four census tracts in Oak Park along Austin Boulevard, between North Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway, dip below 18% of households without internet access.
Meanwhile, the percentage of households without internet access in the five census tracts in Austin along Austin Boulevard, between North Avenue and Eisenhower, ranges from a low of 22% without access in the tract closest to North Avenue to a high of 49% without access in the census tract between South Boulevard and Madison Street.
The most connected census tract in Oak Park, according to the map, is roughly bounded by Division Street, Ridgeland Avenue, South Boulevard and Kenilworth. Here, less than 1% of households lack internet access and virtually none lack devices for connecting to the internet.
According to censusreporter.org, the tract’s median age is 43, per capita income is $90,803 and median household income is $206,184. The tract is 81% white, 6% Asian, 5% Black and 3% Hispanic. Four percent of residents are below the poverty line.
The least connected census tract in Oak Park, according to the NTIA map, is located between South Boulevard, Austin Boulevard, Madison Street and Ridgeland. Here, roughly 18% of households are without internet access and 11% are without a computer, smartphone or tablet.
The tract’s median age is 39, per capita income is $48,286 and median household income is $59,808, according to censusreporter.org. The tract is 54% white, 28% Black, 9% Hispanic and 6% Asian. Twelve percent of residents are below the poverty line.
Nationally, the digital equity divide has been a focus of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, which allocates $65 billion for investing in universal broadband.
In the meantime, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers up to $50 a month discounts on broadband service and related equipment rentals, along with a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. For more information on the program, visit: https://getemergencybroadband.org/.
You can view the NTIA’s interactive map online at: https://bit.ly/3x921OM.