Philly's digital divide is growing, but at least we got some free Wi-Fi kiosks ¯_(ツ)_/¯ - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 11, 2018 1:07 pm

Philly’s digital divide is growing, but at least we got some free Wi-Fi kiosks ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Only 71.6 percent of households in the city had broadband in 2017, compared to 83.5 percent nationally. On the bright side, smartphone users in Center City can now use five of an eventual 100 kiosks to access the internet.

A LinkPHL kiosk in Center City.

(Courtesy photo)

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include mention of the KEYSPOT Network as a resource. (1/8, 9:22 p.m.)
In 2016, the United Nations declared internet access to be a basic human right.

However, in Philadelphia — the United States’ poorest big city, with a poverty rate of 25.7 percent — the internet subscription rate fell from 2016 to 2017 by 2.7 percent, according to the recently released 2013-2017 American Community Survey (ACS).

Only 71.6 percent of households in the city had broadband in 2017, compared to a national rate of 83.5 percent and an 88.1 percent rate in the Philly suburbs.

As Philly.com notes, though, there’s an even wider disparity among the city’s neighborhoods: Center City sees a broadband penetration rate of 89 percent, while North Philadelphia’s Tioga/Nicetown sees only 37 percent.

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Increasingly, residents without in-home broadband are relying on smartphones to access the internet: As of March 2018, a Pew Research Center survey found, 31 percent of American households earning less than $30,000 per year are “smartphone dependent” for internet access.

Those local folks now have one more option for hopping on the web: The ACS data release comes within a few days of the City of Philadelphia’s Dec. 7 launch of its first LinkPHL kiosks, which will offer free and secure Wi-Fi, device charging ports, phone calls within the U.S. and a city services finder.

The Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability announced in November 2017 that it had received approval from the city’s Art Commission to install 100 free-standing kiosks total, mainly in Center City and University City. The service will be paid for by advertising, not the city’s budget.

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“LinkPHL’s many amenities support our SmartCityPHL goal of creating a modern infrastructure that will benefit Philadelphia for many years to come,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement.

See the first five kiosk locations, all in Center City, here, and download the app to access LinkPHL’s Wi-Fi here.

(Screenshot via cities.link/link-cities/philadelphia.html)

As of now, the city isn’t expanding LinkPHL to more impoverished areas, but other steps have been taken to reducing Philadelphia’s digital divide, both from inside and outside local government:

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