Giving Compass' Take:

• Institutions are moving online and leaving low-income people behind. Detroit residents are building their own networks to get access to key services. 

• How can existing institutions become more inclusive? How can philanthropy help low-income communities create their own networks? 

• Learn why rural areas also struggle to get online

For years now, Detroit has been in the spotlight as a poster city for urban revitalization. Stories about how brands like Shinola are tapping into the city’s industrial heritage to bolster the economy, and how intrepid urbanists are converting the city’s vacant land into sustainable farms and affordable housing, are commonplace.

But what they gloss over is that many Detroiters still lack a basic service: internet access. Around 40% of people in the city do not have broadband connectivity–which is a problem, as more and more resources like banking, education, and the U.S. Census move online.

Detroit’s uneven economic history is part of what has impeded internet connectivity. Telecom companies often pass over low-income cities and neighborhoods; households in the bottom 20% of the economic spectrum are five times more likely to lack internet than those at the top. In 2017, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance described AT&T’s avoidance of poorer neighborhoods of color neighborhoods in Cleveland as “digital redlining,” and said that companies don’t expand into such parts of the city because it doesn’t generate them enough profit to do so.

Read more on low-income communities taking control of their online networks by Eillie Anzilotti at Fast Company