Innovating Internet Connectivity in the Atlanta Westside Communities

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Smith, Aviva
Ramachadran, Umakishore
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There are thousands of people in the U.S. who do not have 24/7 internet access at their fingertips. To access broadband internet service, they must rely on the good will of neighbors, libraries, or other public venues that offer to access to affordable, stable internet connection. People facing this situation find themselves unable to submit homework assignments, apply for jobs, work from home, stay up to date with local and global news, or participate in social media. What has made modern life convenient for so many, remains an inconvenience for some. Furthermore, the limitations of the lock downs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 has further exposed that many people would be unable to adapt significant portions of their lives to be maintained using internet accessible tools. As many areas of life have begun to incorporate the usage of resources only accessible online, having access to broadband internet is no longer just a convenience, but a necessity. Previous research has analyzed how people around the world handle the challenges of having limited access to internet and discussed the measures they take to circumvent these difficulties. However, the effectiveness of proposed solutions varies on the circumstance analyzed in the study. The Westside neighborhood of Atlanta Georgia is a prime example of an urban community in which many of the residents face the challenge of finding stable internet connection in their daily lives. By analyzing U.S. census data illustrating the correlation between internet accessibility and income, we determined that the Westside could be categorized as a low-median income area in which many residents do not have broadband internet access in their home and have few public venues where they can find alternative means of connecting to internet. Through investigating how community members use the internet, determining what are their usual means of finding internet access, and learning how they circumvent the challenges, we have been able to prototype a practical solution that could be used to improve internet connectivity in the Westside.
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