Larry Irving still just wants everyone to have equal access to the Internet.
A 2019 inductee into the Internet Hall of Fame, Irving served for seven years as administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, becoming one of the main architects of telecommunications policy in the Clinton White House.
“There are 5 million rural American households that don’t have broadband,” he said. “There are 15 million urban American households that don’t have Internet. Yet all the focus at the FCC seems to be on the 5 million rural and not the 15 million urban and suburban (households).”
The digital divide may have existed before the pandemic but the COVID-19 environment has exacerbated the issue, mainly for low-income households and people of color.
School shutdowns led to more Black, Hispanic, and low-income students dropping out, losing up to a year of learning. Additionally, “over a third of low-income households with school-aged children don’t have Internet at home, with Black and Hispanic teens least likely to have access.”
The shift to remote work and school also made these disparities more urgent. “Jobs incompatible with telecommuting were hardest hit by the recession” and students who didn’t have Internet at home were forced to use WiFi in a McDonald’s parking lot when libraries with free WiFi were closed to the public.
The Biden administration recently proposed a $100 billion plan to close the digital divide and connect every American to broadband over the next eight years.
One might be forgiven for thinking that, as a boy, Doug Comer had little chance of becoming one of the world’s premier experts in computer networks and a renowned university teacher.
The son of a welder father and an elementary school teacher mother, Comer grew up in farm country, near the town of Vineland in southern New Jersey, in a family where “having an education” meant graduating high school.
But Comer possessed a native curiosity about the mechanics of things that, combined with inspiring high school classes in physics and mathematics, gave birth to an early and abiding passion for math and science.
“I liked to see how things worked,” he said in a video interview. “I wanted to know what was inside, what made them tick.”
His curiosity led to simple carpentry and basic machinery, then quickly evolved into an interest in electronics.
“You know, it was the typical blue collar stuff, and it was fun,” Comer said.
“By the time I got to high school I had sort of understood electricity -- how to wire up lamps and do house wiring and things like that.
“My parents didn't have a lot of money so I didn't buy a lot of...
Sugaru Yamaguchi’s fingerprints are all over the web, all over the world.
Inducted posthumously to the Internet Hall of Fame in 2019, Yamaguchi was a founding member of WIDE Project, or the Widely Integrated Distributed Environment, which established Japan’s first Internet backbone in 1988. He also played a key role in the creation of both the Asia Pacific Emergency Response Team, a regional cooperative forum for cybersecurity teams, and AfricaCERT, African Forum of Computer Emergency Response Teams.
Yamaguchi died in 2016. In a recent video interview, his son, Rui Takita, said his father taught him the importance of persistence through his work.
“He showed me that if he believes something can happen, he is going to achieve it some day,” he said.
Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, is a digital librarian with a mission to provide “universal access to all knowledge.” An entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, and inductee to the inaugural Internet Hall of Fame, Kahle invented the first Internet publishing system and helped put newspapers and publishers online in the 1990s.
In a recent interview, Kahle discussed how he feels about digital privacy, the future of content distribution and compensation, and why the preservation and access to historical content is a matter of paramount...