President Barack Obama called the Internet “one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.” However, for many Americans, like Tracy Emerson of West Philadelphia, full connectivity remains out of reach.
Emerson is a 47-year-old single mother of two who canceled her home Internet service when she lost her job at a daycare center. “I couldn’t afford it. They are always changing their packages,” said Emerson who had a bundle, “and it’s never less; it’s always more.”
Emerson has since relied on her smartphone for an Internet connection, but she and her teenage daughter had to find other options to complete schoolwork.
“Even if I go to the Laundromat, I bring my computer so I can do my homework,” said Emerson, who is working on a bachelor’s degree in health care administration.
At least 55 million Americans like Emerson lack reliable broadband Internet access at home — an issue that has swiftly moved from a nuisance to an impediment. In Pennsylvania, nearly one quarter of households lack Internet entirely, according to 2013 Census data.