The US Commerce Department has released a report which shows that broadband adoption in the United States has risen but a digital divide persists that runs along demographic lines. Moreover, socio-economic status does not explain the entire gap.
The Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report, “Exploring the Digital Nation,” analyzes broadband Internet adoption in the United States. Overall, approximately seven out of ten households in the United States subscribe to broadband service. The report finds a strong correlation between broadband adoption and socio-economic factors, such as income and education, but says these differences do not explain the entire broadband adoption gap that exists along racial, ethnic, and geographic lines. Even after accounting for socio-economic differences, certain minority and rural households still lag in broadband adoption.
The report analyzes data collected through an Internet Use supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) of about 54,300 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2010. Earlier this year, NTIA released initial findings from the survey, showing that while virtually all demographic groups have increased adoption of broadband Internet at home since the prior year, historic disparities among demographic groups remain. Today’s report presents broadband adoption statistics after adjusting for various socio-economic differences.
“Closing the broadband adoption gap is a priority because Americans increasingly need 21st century skills to succeed in today’s economy. Today’s report provides a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of broadband adoption that will inform efforts to close the gap and promote America’s competiveness in the global economy,” said Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.
“To get a good job, you often need access to the Internet and online skills. But nearly one in three American households do not subscribe to broadband service,” said NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “NTIA’s broadband grants program is helping to address this challenge by expanding public computer centers and providing Americans with the training needed to participate in the Internet economy. The lessons learned from these broadband projects and today’s report will help the larger community working to close the digital divide, and we encourage researchers to use the survey data for further analysis.”
The principal findings of the report are:
- Sixty-eight percent of American households used broadband Internet in 2010, up from 64 percent in 2009. Only three percent of households relied on dial-up access to the Internet in 2010, down from five percent in 2009. Another nine percent of households had people who accessed the Internet only outside of the home.
- All told, approximately 80 percent of American households had at least one Internet user, whether inside or outside the home and regardless of technology type used to access the Internet.
- Cable modems and DSL were the leading broadband technologies for home Internet adoption, with 32 percent and 23 percent of households, respectively, using these services.
Differences in Household Broadband Adoption
- Households with lower incomes and less education, as well as Blacks, Hispanics, people with disabilities, and rural residents, were less likely to have Internet service at home.
- Eighty-one percent of Asian households and 72 percent of White households had broadband at home, compared to 57 percent of Hispanic households and 55 percent of Black households.
- Seventy percent of urban households had broadband at home, compared to 57 percent of rural households.
- Households with school-age children were more likely to have broadband at home (78 percent) than the national rate. Older householders, particularly those ages 65 and older (45 percent), were less likely to have broadband at home.
- Less than half (43 percent) of households with annual incomes below $25,000 had broadband access at home, while 93 percent of households with incomes exceeding $100,000 had broadband.
- Average broadband adoption in 2010 varied by state from about half (52 percent) of all households to 80 percent.
Role of Socio-Economic Factors
- Socio-economic differences do not explain the entire broadband adoption gap. For example, after accounting for socio-economic and geographic factors, Black and Hispanic households still lag White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points, though the gap between Asian and White households disappears.
- After accounting for socio-economic and demographic factors, rural households still lag urban households in broadband adoption by five percentage points.
- In contrast, differences in socio-economic characteristics do explain a substantial portion but not all of the broadband adoption lag among people with disabilities.
Reasons for Not Subscribing to Broadband at Home
- The main reasons cited for not having Internet access at home were a lack of interest or need (47 percent), the expense (24 percent), and the lack of an adequate computer (15 percent).
- Not surprisingly, individuals without broadband service at home relied on locations such as public libraries (20 percent) or other people’s houses (12 percent) to go online.
Long-term Trends in Internet and Computer Use
- Between 2001 and 2010, broadband Internet use at home, regardless of technology type, rose from 9 percent to 68 percent of households.
- Between 1997 and 2010, Internet use among households, regardless of technology type, rose from 19 percent to 71 percent.
- More than three quarters (77 percent) of American households had a computer at home in 2010, up from 62 percent in 2003.