Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas conducted a study that showed that around a quarter of households in San Antonio still don’t have regular internet access. This is a serious problem because while internet access was at one point a luxury or an optional upgrade for your home, at this point it’s practically a utility. Companies charge extra if you send in paperwork instead of using their website, the best prices you can get on many products are usually through online stores, and employers expect that they can contact their employees through email.
Internet access is becoming essential, and living without it can affect a person’s ability to find a better job, work for themselves, or even get a good loan. Since a quarter of households lack internet service in San Antonio, the city government is finding ways to bring online access to more people. And since San Antonio is hardly the only American city to have an internet access gap, officials throughout the country are watching to see how each project works out.
- One idea is to expand the growing network of fiber internet connections into low-income neighborhoods. Fiber connections are much faster than the usual coaxial cable internet, but they can also be more expensive because of the cost of adding infrastructure. However, government subsidies and neighborhood-wide subscriptions can bring these subscription costs down.
- Another company is trying to bring free Wi-Fi to a community of 1,800 residents on the west side. By using a set of cheap solar panels, they can power the wireless network indefinitely and let people work online without having to add any cables or wires or otherwise spend a lot of money on infrastructure. That could make it cost effective to bring internet service to San Antonio residents who only don’t have access because they can’t afford the monthly payments.
As more government services, banks, and merchants move online, it’s becoming increasingly hard to live without the internet. While it was once a luxury similar to cable or satellite TV, there are so many essential uses for online access today that it’s become more like a utility such as water and electricity (and both of those were at one point considered luxuries, too). So to make sure that everyone will have a fair shot at career advancement and won’t have to pay extra because they can’t pay bills online, the San Antonio government is doing its best to make sure internet service in San Antonio reaches everyone.