LIFE WITH NO SIGNAL

Charlotte Magazine|May 2020

LIFE WITH NO SIGNAL
‘Broadband deserts’ trap people thirsty for access to our digital world
CHUCK McSHANE

BACK IN THE EARLY 1990s, J’Tanya Adams had worked plenty of jobs, often more than one at a time. Then a single mother in West Charlotte, Adams was looking for something more. “I was a grocery store clerk, worked in fast food, and then I was a cosmetologist after work,” Adams says. “Those lower-wage jobs, you kind of end up in the same place.”

That was before she entered a job training program and took a computer operations course at Central Piedmont Community College. “This was in the days of die-hard, mainframe computing,” she says, “but I loved being able to respond strategically to problems.” That one class led to a 21-year career at Hearst Corporation, where Adams rose to operations manager. More than that—it gave her access to the growing digital world and a stable career.

“Anything you desire to do today in life has a digital component,” says Adams, 56, a longtime West Side community leader who founded and works as a program director for Historic West End Partners, a business and community booster group. “Everything from applying to a job to homeownership.”

So much so, in fact, that people who can’t access the internet—because they can’t afford it, live too far from access to it, or both—have a difficult time navigating a society increasingly dependent on not just the web browser but the app. It’s come to be taken for granted: Surely internet access is a given, isn’t it?

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May 2020