The University of Chicago’s Data Science Institute comes out with years of research on internet stocks; reality is not good for those who live on the south, west side – Chicago Tribune

By Covid-19 vaccines to the agriculture industryby mental health wellbeing to the city Chicago’s Year of HealingEquality is a term that is at the forefront on many social fronts. And for the past two years, the University of Chicago Data Science Institute (DSI) has focused on internet stocks in hopes of better understanding how to close the digital divide uncovered in state communities during this pandemic.

Researchers from the University’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice and the Department of Computer Science have collaborated over the past two years to collect newer, targeted Internet data on Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods under the Internet Equity Initiative† At Monday’s Data Science Institute summit on the UChicago campus, Nick Feamster, faculty director of research at the Data Science Institute, and Nicole Marwell, associate professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice — both principal investigators of the initiative – a difference of 32 points between the most connected neighborhoods in the Loop and Near North Side (where more than 94% of households are connected to the internet) compared to the Far South Side neighborhoods of Burnside and West Englewood, where less than 62% of households are connected.

“We’ve known for a while that federal data on this is basically collecting paper forms from Internet service providers with a pretty coarse granularity, like a census level, and if a house is covered, they’re like, ‘Okay, it’s fine,’ said Femster. that was suspicious but it hit me when I moved to Hyde Park almost three years ago If you look at that map Hyde Park would get gigabit internet access and serve multiple ISPs But I had a great time signing up for service on my block. That lit a fire for me. I thought, ‘Wow, if it’s this bad in Hyde Park, in the city of Chicago, it must be worse somewhere else, where we don’t even look.’

The differences in connectivity between neighborhoods can be seen in DSIs data portal, which combines public and private data from 20 cities in the country, including Chicago. UChicago students analyzed pre-pandemic information from the US Census, the American Community Survey, the Federal Communications Commission and the portal for a more localized look at Internet connectivity in Chicago. From July to August 2021, researchers measured internet performance in a house in Hyde Park and one in South Shore – both households paid for gigabit Internet service from Xfinity (Comcast). The Hyde Park household experienced higher quality internet than the South Shore household. Portal data also showed that connectivity strongly correlates with income, unemployment and race/ethnicity.

According to the portal data, broadband access in parts of Roseland is only 49%; in an area of ​​Chicago Heights, it’s less than that, and in an area of ​​East Garfield Park, connectivity is below 46%. The Loop, Lincoln Park and Beverly neighborhoods show more than 90% connectivity. The results highlight the need for ongoing, targeted intervention to improve connectivity in parts of the city, and the rationale for DSI’s ongoing research. With the $65 billion in federal funding approved in 2021 under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to expand broadband, Feamster and Marwell hope the work of the initiative will help Illinois get its fair share of funds under the law. and helps stakeholders interested in working on solutions to reduce the digital divide.

The initiative is working with local community organizations and residents to assist in this effort by collecting various measures of Internet performance in Chicago households. Volunteers from all over Chicago installed small devices on their routers, allowing researchers to measure Internet performance as data travels to and from the household. Researchers continue to recruit volunteers to make neighborhood comparisons. Feamster said the institute’s team welcomes many ways of getting local residents involved — from “cutting up and dicing the data,” as well as thinking about solutions.

“The point of collecting the data is to understand the nature of the problem, which can then inform the people who are working to actually develop solutions to the problem,” Marwell said. “And that could be a lot of different people: ISPs, utilities, it could be community groups setting up public Wi-Fi, it could be landlords trying to add Wi-Fi to their building services, rather than people connecting themselves to an ISP.

Marwell said connectivity is more than just an affordability issue. The own-initiative inquiry really boosts the quality and reality of the lived internet experience of people on the ground – little more than the one-time captured data from internet speed tests. By measuring more of the lived experience in continuous real-time, researchers can gauge over time whether something big is going on in a particular neighborhood or whether an area is just having a bad day or hour.

“It may seem like the internet is a solution that works for everyone, but the more we learn about the nature of the problem, we see that what the building is made of makes a difference, what the trees and other topography look like makes a difference Marwell said. “What’s possible within the kind of management orientation of a multi-unit building makes a difference, what community institutions may be available to place a community WiFi antenna – all those things are part of this We can’t really think of solving the internet problem and giving everyone a subsidy to buy their own service.”

“I think to the extent that these efforts are successful in achieving the goal of greater connectivity, that will be a very important proof-of-concept to keep money rolling in over the next few years through subsequent infrastructure investments at both the federal and state levels. to keep up the work and try to reach everyone,” Marwell said.

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