By Rosa Mendoza, President and CEO, ALLvanza

Access to affordable, reliable broadband Internet and the knowledge and ability to fully utilize this vital resource have become determining factors for achieving success in our technology-enabled world. Truly the Internet has become foundational to every activity in our lives ranging from the most mundane of tasks (checking the weather or your favorite team’s box score) to the most important of tasks such as submitting a college or job application, working or running a business from home, accessing medical or educational resources, or communicating with family over long distances. Without access to affordable, reliable broadband, many living in the United States are at a serious disadvantage in terms of being able to complete these tasks and compete with those who are able to fully leverage the benefits of the Internet.

According to Pew, rates of access to broadband drop significantly among certain demographics, for example, Latinos, older and rural residents, and those with less education and/or household income. The glaring problem here is that these groups will continue to perpetually be left on the wrong side of the Digital Divide because these groups will continually fall behind in achievement and income, which will continue to mean less access. Without strong advocacy and decisive action, this cycle will be perpetuated and those within disadvantaged communities will continue to find themselves without the primary mechanisms for achieving success; broadband Internet and associated technology. For this reason, ALLvanza advocates for affordable, reliable access to broadband for everyone living in the United States.

But it is not enough to have access; without integrating broadband Internet and technology tools into their daily lives, underserved communities will never fully reap the benefits these resources offer. This concept hits very close to home for me, literally and figuratively. Growing up in central Washington State I did not have Internet connectivity at home or even a computer. At that time, I was not unlike most of my peers who also did not have access to these beneficial resources; after all, we were all growing up in a small agricultural town. In high school I was a good student. I was able to achieve a GPA good enough to get into Washington State University. It wasn’t until college that I bought my first computer. From that moment my educational, and subsequently my professional, career accelerated. I graduated with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and have established myself as a thought leader and strong advocate for others to have access and to adopt broadband Internet and other associated technology resources. When I think back on the impact that a connected device had on my ability to succeed, it strengthens my resolve to ensure that everyone has equal access to fully functional connected devices.

As my example shows, using a connected device enabled a young Latina in a rural area to complete her assignments, graduate with two degrees, obtain a (Re)defined technology job, and advocate every day for other young Latinas and members of underserved communities to be able to achieve success through access to technology. My example highlights the vitally important role that access to and integration of Internet and connected devices play in enabling success. Many underserved communities do not have the same level of access to these vital resources and in turn do not have all the tools needed for success in our technology driven world. It is my hope that if you’re reading this you will join me in realizing my goals of ensuring access to affordable, reliable broadband and connected devices does not become the socioeconomic divider of our time but rather one of the main vessels through which everyone living in the U.S. is able to realize educational and professional parity.