Internet, computer access limited for some Las Vegas residents

The West Las Vegas Library is filled with customers Thursday night, but there’s hardly a printed page turning.

Most eyes in the building are focused on glowing screens. The phenomenon stretches from near the library’s entrance, where eight adults at a single square table are hunched over laptops and cellphones, back to the youth center, where children are using computers to tackle online homework, watch YouTube and play video games.


Free high-speed internet and computer access are among the library’s most popular services, computer center department head Lisa Gibson said. Last month alone, more than 4,000 people logged in to the facility’s computers, rivaling the number of books customers checked out.

“From the minute we open until the minute we close, people are walking in and connecting,” Gibson said. “You’ll see people attached to four or five devices while they do their homework. It’s expected.”

While the West Las Vegas Library’s computers are not the most frequently used in the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, newly released federal data show that they are among the most needed.

Residents of the Las Vegas Valley’s urban core are more likely than suburbanites not to have a computer or an internet subscription at home, according to estimates documented in the U.S. Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey.

The census estimates that about 1 in 10 households in Clark County doesn’t have a computer or smartphone, and about 1 in 5 households has no internet subscription. Those rates double, and even triple, in the Historic Westside and adjoining downtown neighborhoods.

By and large, the census tracts that make up this urban core have a higher percentage of black residents and lower median household incomes than the county average, according to the census data. Aging houses, apartments and public housing complexes line neighborhood streets.

Residents there risk being left behind in the digital age without regular access to computers and the internet, a tool that many take for granted but is used for everything from job hunting to banking to viewing of government meetings.

On Thursday, 13-year-old public housing resident Christian Bannister relied on a nonprofit tutor’s laptop to write an essay for one of his classes at West Preparatory Academy. The eighth-grader’s family has internet but no computer at home, and Bannister said completing and submitting homework is difficult on his smartphone.

“The keyboard is much smaller, so you’ll make more mistakes,” he said. “The computer is way more accessible.”

And while smartphones mean that families like Bannister’s no longer need a laptop to access the information superhighway, UNLV computer science professor Andreas Stefik said there are undeniable benefits to getting children comfortable using laptops.

“What they’re doing is learning how to manipulate machines, and that’s a skill you can use later in life,” he said.

Margarita Gonzalez used to travel an hour by bus to use the internet.

The single, stay-at-home mom spent years relying on their local library because she could not afford Wi-Fi.

She’s not alone. Census data show that in Clark County there is a strong correlation between household income and whether a family has an internet subscription.

More than 40 percent of households with less than $20,000 in annual income did not have an internet subscription, but that share shrank to 8 percent of households that made $75,000 or more a year.

For Gonzalez, things changed in May 2013, when her family became the first in Las Vegas to sign up for Cox Communications’ Connect2Compete. The program offers at-home internet access for about $10 a month to qualifying families receiving government benefits.

Gonzalez said she’s used the internet to manage Social Security benefits, apply for a housing choice voucher and access her family’s medical records. Cox also gave her a laptop in 2016, and now her son Michael is using web-based software to try his hand at animation.


“We work with what we have, but having internet is like having everything you didn’t have before,” Gonzalez said. “Having internet is not a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity, like a car and a phone.”

The Connect2Compete program is just one local effort to bridge the digital divide.

In addition to providing on-site access, the West Las Vegas Library began checking out mobile hot spots this year. The Boys &Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada has computer labs for children in all 13 of its clubhouses.

Earlier this month, 80 families living in public housing in the Historic Westside received Wi-Fi and tablets pre-loaded with education and employment apps. Las Vegas city officials, working in partnership with T-Mobile and the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, plan to distribute 220 more tablets next year. Each family will have the services for two years.

“We learned about 70 percent of residents did not have access to (computer and internet) technology in their homes,” said Lisa Morris Hibbler, director of the city’s youth development and social innovation department. “We see a lot of people with cellphones, but not everyone that has a cellphone has a data plan. I think that gives the misperception that everyone is connected.”

The Clark County School District is loaning laptops to more than 17,000 middle school students and teachers.

Part of the Nevada Ready 21 statewide learning initiative, the program is intended to encourage students to develop modern skills they can carry beyond the classroom and into their careers.

Brian Mitchell, the director of the Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology, said it’s critical for children to become proficient in computer science.

“The jobs of the future aren’t going to be manual-labor jobs. They’ll be jobs that require workers to interact with machines,” Mitchell said. “It’s absolutely imperative for us to work in education and workforce policy to not leave these communities behind.”


Contact Michael Scott Davidson at or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

Local Videos
Library director talks about library as community center
Ron Heezen discusses his hopes for the new East Las Vegas Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Property Brothers visit Michael’s in Las Vegas Valley
Twin brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott are the hosts of Property Brothers, the hit HGTV show where they help couples find fixer-uppers and transform them into dream homes. In 2018, the brothers collaborated with Michael's on their first custom framing program. Today they're releasing new frames into that collection that range from natural to bright looking. Jonathan and Drew discuss their brand and why frames was something they wanted to pursue. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 traffic jam
A semitrailer stopped in the middle of Interstate 15 near Charleston Boulevard has slowed traffic in central Las Vegas Wednesday morning, April 17, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rainy Tuesday
The Las Vegas Valley saw cooler temperatures and rain Tuesday afternoon. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Tiger Woods Bettor Collects
James Adducci bet $85k on Tiger Woods to win the Masters. He collected his $1.19M from William Hill sports bet in the SLS today. (Mat Luschek /Review-Journal)
Endangered frogs released at Springs Preserve
Dozens of endangered Relic Leopard Frogs were released at the Cotton Grove inside Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Thursday, April 11, 2019
Vintage World War II aircraft arrive at Henderson Executive Airport
The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom tour comes to Henderson Executive Airport with a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang and a P-40 Warhawk. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring Pearl Harbor veteran
Ed Hall, a Pearl Harbor veteran in Las Vegas, is honored with Quilt of Valor during an event in a Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Anthropology professors excavate Maya ruin site of Caracol, Belize for 36 years
The husband-and-wife team of UNLV anthropologists has spent several months a year at the remote site of Caracol in the jungles of Belize, excavating ruins and uncovering secrets from the region’s once-dominant civilization. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Things to remember when adopting a rabbit this Easter season
As Easter and spring time approach, some people may be tempted to adopt a rabbit for the holiday. But like adopting any animal, it is important to be responsible and know what a rabbit requires to be a happy, healthy pet. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bike Giveaway in Las Vegas - Piero’s Italian Cuisine
Evan Glusman of Piero’s Italian Cuisine hosted a party in the restaurant’s parking lot to distribute over 150 bikes to local kids. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Charleston/I-15 ramp configuration
The new Interstate 15/ Charleston Boulevard ramp configuration was unveiled Tuesday morning. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Northwest Vegas farm's abandoned pig problem
Someone abandoned a several hundred pound pig at Sharon Linsenbardt's farm. Her farm is a rescue for animals, but she doesn't have room or resources to take on another such creature, so she's asking the community for help. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Chalk Talk: Black Student Union
Students talk about the Black Student Union in the latest episode of Chalk Talk. (Angus Kelly and Amelia Pak-Harvey/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Individuals with Parkinson's participate in dance class
Pamela Lappen leads a dance class for individuals with Parkinson's Disease at the Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Review-Journal
Animal Foundation Preps Pups For Best In Show
The Las Vegas Animal Foundation is preparing its prime pups for their 16th annual Best in Show event, which takes place at the end of April. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Dog Yoga At Hydrant Club
The Hydrant Club in downtown Las Vegas, is a social club for dogs and their people. Recently the club started hosting dog yoga. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing