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What the Internet Means for Human Relationships
Last year, NCTA partnered with TED and Miracle Messages, a non-profit that reunites homeless people with their loved ones through social media and video messages, to produce a video on how fast internet is making an impact on human relationships. We recently caught up with Kevin Adler, Founder of Miracle Messages, to check in on how the efforts are going and what hurdles remain, but to also remind ourselves of the role that broadband networks play in enabling people-to-people connections.
Adler shared his insights on the misconceptions about homeless people, and the lack of relationships in their lives that end up sending them into a downward spiral. "When a person becomes homeless, they lose a lot more than just their physical housing. Oftentimes, they lose touch with their families and friends as well. Over time, this social disconnectedness negatively impacts self-esteem and makes it more difficult for them to form relationships, accept help, realize goals, maintain their well-being, and (yes) even find stable housing," said Adler. So far, Miracle Messages has facilitated 115 reunions, thanks to the video messages that are created and distributed online by volunteers. Adler said he hopes this number will increase.
The digital divide is very much in existence for homeless populations. Adler explained that phones are in short supply among this group. "They get lost, stolen, or otherwise run out of battery or data. This makes finding our homeless clients again a challenge. Would love to be able to equip all of our clients with the phone and internet connectivity they need to stay engaged," said Adler.
In recent years, broadband adoption programs like Comcast Internet Essentials have helped to shrink the divide, investing in over $300 million in these programs and reaching 1.25 million families. And while an overwhelming 89 percent of Americans now use the internet, up from 85 percent in 2015, there are still many homeless individuals who don't have access to an internet connection. As ISPs continue this work to make the internet and digital literacy training available to Americans across the country, it will be essential to improving the quality of life for low-income populations.
To end homelessness, Adler emphasized that it's of utmost importance to "rebuild social homes as much as affordable housing." A fast and reliable broadband connection is the key that will help to lay the foundation for building a new "social home"—one which allows for long-lost connections to reunite, even across vast physical distances and many years of silence. No one knows this better than the many homeless individuals who have been reunited with their families through Miracle Messages.
As CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney said, "As humans, we are not wired to be by ourselves. There's always this need to connect ... The role that technology plays now is that community is no longer limited by the people on your block."
Check out the video below featuring McKinney, Adler, and Miracle Messages and learn more about how today's broadband networks are helping to drive social change and bring people together: