More and more people are ditching their landlines for wireless devices, which is having a ripple effect throughout the industry and creating a problem often referred to as the “digital divide.” America has prided itself on being able to give people universal access to electricity, but the expansion into the wireless world is causing problems with making sure this still holds true.
The Center for American Progress reported that, “It [electricity] is available to 100 percent of Americans and accessible to any who wish to tap into it.” While landlines are still widely used throughout corporate America, they are becoming scarce in the residential sector. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.8 percent of U.S. households were wireless-only subscribers in 2012—a 77 percent increase since 2008.
Moving to a wireless-only lifestyle may seem efficient because you are able to receive calls wherever you are, but without an increase in cell tower sites the connection will be poor and could cause problems during a natural disaster or national security problem. During Hurricane Sandy 25% of the cell towers were knocked out. This hindered people’s ability to call for help. It’s hard to ensure that wireless capabilities will be available to people 100% of the time.
“Telecom services such as broadband Internet and cell-phone service have recently become almost as essential to everyday life as access to electricity. And, as with electricity, it is important that these services are available to every American. Access to some of these telecom services, however, is not universal,” the Center for American Progress explains.
To keep up with the demand for wireless networks, companies are updating their current equipment on cell towers as well as constructing more towers to fill the gaps in service. The only way to mend the digital divide is to provide everyone equal access to wireless networks and if these services remain unevenly distributed, there may be a harmful effect on communities and the economy at large.