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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Divided We Fall: Addressing the Digital Divide with Universal Service Policies
Erik Peterson
REPORT 2000 P4425 Public Affairs Library.

Income inequality between socio-economic classes has been well documented throughout American history. This "wealth gap" has translated into a society in 1999 in which 1% of households own 40% of the wealth. In the latter part of the 1990s academics and the media began referring to a 'new' gap between "haves" and "have-nots" as the "digital divide," alluding to the growing difference between sectors of society with regard to access to high technology. Though the rich poor gap is not new, it is argued that American society's new found dependence on telecommunications networks and high-technology will solidify the gap, blocking lower socio-economic groups from entry into the "new economy," and the information technology arena. Without access to technology or the education to use it, social commentators and policymakers fear a large portion of society will be left behind: unable to get jobs that pay a livable wage and shut out from the many services and benefits that will migrate online. Beyond access to jobs, this resulting inequality means a lack of a myriad of opportunities for a segment of the population.