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San Antonio Scores Poorly On Internet Access

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
San Antonio has large and concentrated areas lacking internet access in the home.

One in four San Antonio households lack internet. A digital summit Wednesday held by city and community leaders aimed to bridge that gap.

The Digital Inclusion Summit brought in national experts to walk people through the issue and why it was important, but for people living in these communities like Rosa Wilson the reason was obvious, jobs. Wilson, a pastor at the Greater Faith Institutional Church on San Antonio's East side, says it makes it harder for her neighbors and congregates to find work.

"And then when you apply for a job, they say you have to go online. Well online is not an option for a lot of these people because they don't have the finances, they don't have it in their home, and most of all they don't have the knowledge," she says.

The summit was held at the Central Library downtown, one of the places public access to the internet is available in limited amounts of time. The city of San Antonio ranks in the bottom third for internet access of cities with more than 100,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Credit Source: Census Bureau 2013 American Consumer Survey
Courtesy of Federal Reserve Bank

It is also one of the most economically segregated cities in the country. These two facts overlap and create large pockets of poverty across the city's east, west, and south sides.  Internet access is exactly what these areas need for residents to escape poverty says Fed Senior Advisor Jordana Barton.

"The internet economy is the economy. And if you don't have access to the economy you can' t build your business, likewise workforce development, access to healthcare all of these areas," Barton says.

As government, banks, schools and employers conduct more business online, Barton says the risks of doing nothing are too great.

"If we don't do anything, it will be devastating for the communities that are already left out." 

Community members and experts in attendance both said the biggest thing about the summit was starting that conversation. 

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org