According to a recent residential broadband survey, 35 percent of all Americans and 17 million U.S. children live without access to broadband service—and while these statistics are alarming, more companies are pledging assistance and support in an effort to reduce the digital divide.
Consumer Broadband Adoption Trends, the survey from high-speed internet access advocacy group Connected Nation, also showed that out of the 17 million U.S. children without broadband, 7.6 million of these are in low-income households.
Lack of at-home broadband internet services means no Google, no Wikipedia, no finishing homework assignments, no personalized learning, no Facebooking with friends, and no checking eMails for many Americans. It also means no equity, and therefore, lowers chances of graduating high school and finding a job. It also slows economic recovery, job growth, and social development.
It’s what Connected Nation is calling the “Internet Underclass”—“an impoverished and disconnected population with fewer educational and employment opportunities.”
“The broadband adoption gap affects us all—it affects the economic future of our communities, it affects the education of our children, and it affects the economy’s potential for job growth,” said Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel for Connected Nation, in a statement. “But there are no simple solutions to what is a multifaceted problem. Our state-based research into the demographic, economic, and digital skill barriers to adoption is a crucial first step that will help government and communities tailor and target effective broadband adoption solutions.”
Only 46 percent of low-income households with children have broadband internet services, compared to 66 percent of all households. That 46 percent drops to 37 percent when it’s a low-income minority household.
Forty percent of low-income households also don’t have a computer, compared to only 9 percent of all other households.
“As we enter the country’s poorer areas, the adoption gap grows sharply,” explained Brian Mefford, Connected Nation’s CEO. “Hardest hit are low-income schoolchildren, because fewer opportunities to use broadband means fewer opportunities to learn, to interact, and to develop the skills necessary to participate in today’s economy. Closing these gaps is key to our nation’s economic future.”
According to the survey, cost is holding people back from adopting broadband internet services—18 percent of all Americans say expensive fees are the main reason for not subscribing, and that number jumps to 43 percent in low-income households with children.
Lack of digital skills is also a factor for 14 percent of low-income households with children, and 19 percent of all U.S. households.
This is an interesting development, the report states. In 2005, the survey found that the most significant barrier to broadband adoption was relevance—many consumers “simply did not feel they needed broadband or were satisfied with their current dial-up service. Broadband and computer cost concerns were present, but were not as preeminent.”