Americans overwhelmingly believe that high-speed internet access is a basic necessity, according to a new survey from Kajeet. Additionally, this need for connectivity is not new, as nearly 75 percent of respondents believed high-speed internet was important even before the pandemic began more than two years ago. The survey also finds that 64 percent of U.S. adults are worried about their ability to pay for a high-speed internet connection at home, drawing attention to the opportunity gap and homework gap many students face.
The digital divide–the gap between people who have access to modern information and communications technology and those who do not – is a major issue. Access to the internet has become a necessity in almost all aspects of life today, including education, healthcare, remote work, etc. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), however, an estimated 14.5 million Americans lack home broadband access. For these 14.5 million people, not having access to the internet is a disadvantage.
High-Speed Internet is a Necessity, Not a Luxury
In the survey, 7 in 10 respondents (70 percent) said they agree with the statement “high-speed internet is a basic necessity,” with 37 percent saying they “strongly agree” and 33% saying they “somewhat agree.” Only 11 percent said they “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree.” When asked if they agree with the statement that governments (local, state, federal) should provide free high-speed internet connectivity to all Americans, 43 percent said they “strongly agree,” 29 percent said they “somewhat agree,” and 13 percent said they either “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree.”
Student Access to High-Speed Internet Was Critical Before the Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world in 2020, the digital divide and the critical need for high-speed internet connectivity, especially for learning, became much clearer to many people. But this need existed well before the national health crisis. When asked how important or unimportant respondents felt that at-home, high-speed internet access was for K-12 students’ learning before the pandemic, an overwhelming majority (70 percent) of respondents said it was important. When asked the same question about the importance of high-speed internet connectivity for learning post-pandemic, the same number of respondents (70 percent) said it was important.
Yes, I Need It, but Can I Afford It?
While a majority of Americans (70 percent) said they believe high-speed internet is a basic necessity, more than 6 in 10 (64 percent) said they are worried about their ability to pay for a high-speed internet connection at home. When asked how worried they were, 27 percent said “very worried,” 37 percent said “somewhat worried.” When asked what three activities would pose the greatest struggle if they were to lose high-speed internet at home, 42 percent said business/work, 38 percent said healthcare, 35 percent said accessing smart home devices and systems and 35 percent said schoolwork.
Parents With School-Aged Children Are Frustrated
- Schools Can Help: When parents with school-aged children were asked what they felt their children’s school could have provided to make online/distance learning more accessible, 61% said “high-speed internet,” 46% answered “technical support for necessary devices,” and 44% said “devices such as tablets or laptops.”
- Schoolwork Doesn’t End at School: When asked about which activities at home require high-speed internet access, 42% of parents with school-aged children stated schoolwork for themselves or their children. More than half (52%) said that business/work also required a high-speed connection.
- Remote Learning is Not Always Possible from Home: When asked all of the reasons Americans, or someone in their household, have had to leave home to access high-speed internet, 49% said “to complete homework,” and 44% said, “to attend online classes.”
- Degrees of Separation: Almost half of U.S. adults surveyed (41%) have either struggled themselves to access internet connectivity for learning in the last year or know someone who has.
- Need for Access to Better Technology to Support Online Learning: Nearly a quarter of parents with school-aged children (24%) said their children’s schools have not provided adequate technology to support online/distance learning over the past year.
- Online Learning is Here to Stay: When asked which type of learning model they prefer for their children going forward post-pandemic, almost half of parents with school-aged children (44%) stated a preference for a hybrid model (mix of both in-person and virtual), less than one-third (32%) prefer 100% in-person, and 11% said they prefer fully virtual learning.
Other key findings include:
- Internet Access Everywhere is Important: Almost three-quarters (72%) of U.S. adults believe it is important to have an internet connection they can take with them and use outside their home, such as a Wi-Fi hotspot, a Wi-Fi device, internet-embedded devices, etc.
- Remaining Connected is Essential: When asked about the importance of having high-speed internet access at home, 65% said they found at-home connectivity is important, which includes one-third (37%) saying “very important.”
- Speed and Quality Problems are Common: When asked how often respondents have experienced speed or quality problems with their high-speed internet connection at home during the past year, Americans are experiencing frustrations: 20% said “always;” 21% said “often;” 26% said “sometimes;” 10% said “rarely;” and only 3% said “never.”
- Home is Not Always Where High-Speed Internet Is: Over the last year, nearly three-quarters of adults (73%) said they had to leave home at some point to access high-speed internet.
“The results of this national survey highlight the widely-held belief among Americans that everyone needs to be connected to the Internet. The data clearly show that as the world opens after the pandemic, the need for reliable connectivity is necessary, and makes our society and economy more vibrant and resilient,” said Daniel J.W. Neal, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Kajeet. “The survey provides key insights into the types of activities outside of education that require connectivity, such as access to a wide range of healthcare and employment opportunities. With many Americans concerned about how they will pay for this necessary connection, it is essential that more steps are taken to ensure affordable and robust Internet connectivity.”
This press release originally appeared online.
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