African Americans in Mississippi often have fewer options for high-speed Internet and spend a higher proportion of their incomes on the Internet than whites in the state, according to a new report underscoring how the digital divide splits along racial lines.
Mississippi ranks among the worst states in the nation in terms of broadband availability, and residents must choose among older, slower and less-reliable Internet technologies than people in other states, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Social Inclusion and the Mississippi NAACP.
“We must implement aggressive and fair broadband infrastructure policies in order to bring Mississippi into the 21st century economy,” Derrick Johnson, state president of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP, said in a statement.
The report found that African Americans in Mississippi are at a particular disadvantage, partly because of where they live. Of the 10 counties in the state with the most options for Internet service providers, only one county has a majority of African Americans, according to the report. This is significant because areas of Mississippi with the greatest number of Internet service providers — in this case, areas with a majority of whites — tend to do better economically, the report found. There were an average of 378 businesses in areas of the state with four to seven Internet providers per zip code, compared with an average of 55 businesses in areas where there were three providers or less.
The report found that infrastructure for high-speed Internet has been concentrated in three areas: the Jackson Metro area, the northeast corridor and along the Gulf Coast. This has “set the stage for low adoption rates in the majority African-American communities of the Delta region, low-income areas and rural areas,” the report said
The racial disparity in Internet access in Mississippi may be attributed to income inequalities. The median household income for African Americans in Mississippi is $24,000, a third less than whites in the state and just above the federal poverty level for a family of four. That means the average African-American family would need to spend between 1 and 6 percent of its annual income on broadband Internet, compared with whites who spend on average between 0.5 to 3 percent of their annual incomes on Internet, according to the report.
Source: The Huffington Post | Gerry Smith