Miami Ranks Second Worst in the Nation for Home Internet Access

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If you're reading this story on a home computer, consider yourself luckier than a full third of city of Miami residents. This week, Florida International University took a look at internet connectivity across the nation — and the startling results showed Miami ranked second worst in America.

FIU's Metropolitan Center used U.S. Census data to compare connectivity in cities of at least 50,000 households. The numbers? Thirty-seven percent of households in Miami lack basic internet access.

The situation in Miami is worse than any place in America besides Brownsville, Texas, where 42 percent of residents don't have home internet. Hialeah ranked fifth worst, with 34 percent of residents reporting no online access at home. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the area is tops in the nation in proportion of immigrants, who have historically had less access to the internet.)

Compare those two cities to a place like Weston, the most connected city in Florida. Although that Broward city is only 40 miles from Miami, 97 percent of residents there say they have internet at home. 

For many people, the public library remains the only place with access to the internet or a computer. Last year, more than a million people used library computers in Miami-Dade, and the county expects that number to grow in 2016. 

"All of our computers are always very busy," says Leila Khalil, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Public Library System. "People use it to look for jobs, to check their email, to apply for social security benefits. They come in all the time at all our branches."

The need is so great that the library has extended its Wi-Fi networks so they can be accessed from outside the buildings even when the branches are closed. 

"On weekends, you'll see people sitting outside a branch in their car just to be able to access the Wi-Fi," Khalil says. 

The good news is that progress is being made. Earlier this year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development extended a program that brought $9.95 monthly internet service to all residents in Miami-Dade public housing. The initiative, which connected 140,000 low-income Miami-Dade residents to the internet, also gives people in public housing the option to purchase a home computer for $150.

"In this digital age, when you can apply for a job, take a course, pay your bills, order pizza, even find a date by tapping your phone, the internet is not a luxury," President Barack Obama said during a news conference about the program last year. "It's a necessity."

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