In 2020, access to the internet is a must-have utility. Students require the internet to do homework and participate in distance learning; parents require the internet to work, to apply for jobs, to pay bills; and families require the internet for telehealth appointments, communication with friends and extended family, and entertainment. Despite the internet's apparent ubiquity, 42% of Dallas households lack fixed internet access, according to Census data. Poor communities of color disproportionately lack internet access, growing and deepening existing inequities. The ten zip codes with the greatest number of households that do not have a broadband subscription are almost entirely located in Southern Dallas.
In the wake of COVID-19, the Internet for All Coalition was born in collaboration between The Commit Partnership, Dallas ISD, Dallas Regional Chamber, Federal Reserve Bank, Dallas Innovation Alliance, nine chief technology officers at area school districts, and other public and private organizations dedicated to ensuring all students can access the internet. To better understand the nature of the challenge, the Coalition first used data on access to broadband found in the Community Resource Explorer (CRE). This data illustrated disparities in broadband access at the neighborhood level and identified where efforts to expand connectivity might have the greatest impact.
Beyond helping to define the problem, the CRE also supported the Coalition to identify “point-to-multipoint” (Private Wireless Network) pilot sites in neighborhoods that face the compounding effects of historical inequities. To determine pilot sites, the Coalition used criteria that took into account the percent of households with children without broadband, unemployment rates, number of healthcare clinics, and number of public libraries -- all indicators found in the CRE.
The work of the Internet for All Coalition illustrates the interdependencies among CRE data and also how CRE data can be used to scope a problem and move quickly to solutions. Reliable internet is a necessary component of a thriving neighborhood, and the Coalition, equipped with data from the CRE, is working to ensure that all Dallas neighborhoods have access.