Internet Connections Broaden The Definition of Housing Infrastructure

person using laptop sitting on pavement
i-life photo by Patrick Mayon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Broadband connections have become critical for education, as so many students are not in the classroom during COVID-19.

New housing salesperson to prospective buyer, “Wait a minute! Now you say you want electricity brought right into your home! That will be special order, and cost extra.”

Not a statement to be heard much in this day and age. Electricity has long been considered an essential feature. But substitute “the internet” for “electricity” and such a comment might indeed be common, if not the norm.

Working from a United Nations definition of the Right to Adequate Housing, the term “adequate” includes a home’s infrastructure — water, sewage, electricity, and the road that connects the home to the community.1

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an increasingly strong argument to be made that the internet has become an essential part of infrastructure for an adequate home.2 This has become particularly apparent with the sudden need to work from home, which only works when there is access to the internet.

Most distressing for a nation’s commitment to the future through education for all, a critical need for home based schooling has crippled children and their families who have poor internet access or none at all.

It may take years, hopefully not decades, for the internet to become “baked in” to our understanding of adequate housing infrastructure. In the meantime, Phoenix, Arizona and Dayton Ohio are making use of COVID-19 emergency relief funds to provide at least a temporary fix.

Read more in the DOWNTOWN DEVIL: City working to address digital divide with coronavirus relief funds and the Dayton Daily News: Public housing Wi-Fi project faces future funding hurdles

Footnotes

  1. Here’s a discussion of adequate housing in UN Terms: Fact Sheet No.21, The Human Right to Adequate Housing
  2. Try: The Human Right to Adequate Housing: A Changing Definition Of “Adequate”