NTIA: Broadband Adoption Up, Digital Divide Remains

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WASHINGTON – Racial, ethnic and geographic gaps in broadband adoption are not fully explained by factors such as income and education, according to a new report released by the Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Overall, about seven in 10 households now subscribe to broadband; the major reasons for not subscribing are lack of interest and affordability.

The report, “Exploring the Digital Nation,” 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, which showed that although virtually all demographic groups have increased broadband adoption, historic disparities remain.

"Closing the broadband adoption gap is a priority because Americans increasingly need 21st-century skills to succeed in today’s economy,” says Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.

Major Findings
- Sixty-eight percent of American households used broadband Internet in 2010, up from 64 percent in 2009. Only 3 percent relied on dial-up access to the Internet in 2010, down from 5 percent in 2009. Another 9 percent of households had people who accessed the Internet only outside the home.

- 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.

- 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.

Gaps in Broadband Adoption
- Eighty-one percent of Asian households and 72 percent of white households had broadband at home, compared with 57 percent of Hispanic households and 55 percent of black households.

- Seventy percent of urban households had broadband at home, compared with 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, and 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.

Socioeconomic Factors
- Socioeconomic differences do not explain the entire broadband adoption gap. For example, after accounting for socioeconomic 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 socioeconomic and demographic factors, rural households still lag urban households in broadband adoption by 5 percentage points.

- In contrast, differences in socioeconomic 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).

- 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
- 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.

NTIA is using approximately $4 billion of stimulus funding for deploying broadband infrastructure, enhancing and expanding public computer centers, and encouraging the sustainable adoption of broadband service. In addition, NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative is supporting a host of state-driven initiatives to better integrate broadband and information technology into state and local economies.

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