Survey: Closing the Digital Divide

  • Broadband Penetration
WASHINGTON -- Only 42 percent of African Americans and Hispanics regularly use the Internet, yet they overwhelmingly agree that Internet access is critical to achieving success, according to new findings from a national survey of 900 minority adults conducted by Brilliant Corners Research, led by Pollster Cornell Belcher.

Members of African American and Hispanic communities believe in the value of high-speed broadband Internet, as opposed to outdated, slower dial-up service. Nearly one in five respondents (18 percent) identified ‘speed of connection’ as the one thing they would change to make accessing the Internet easier, while only 10 percent said they would make Internet access free.

“It’s extremely important to note that the top answer given by those polled for how to ‘make it easier to access the Internet’ was [faster] speed of connection,” says Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, at whose symposium the research was introduced yesterday. “Policy makers working toward universal broadband must understand that speed of connections – achieved via robust investments in infrastructure and effective network management – are essential for both access and adoption.”

In answer to the open-ended question about the ‘one thing you could change that would make you more likely to want to access the Internet,’ affordability ranked near the top of the list. This indicates that higher costs of broadband access could hurt adoption if communities of color are deterred from capitalizing on the benefits of high-speed Internet.

"It is very telling that of those respondents who do not have Internet access, 43 percent cited either not knowing how to use the Internet or not seeing the need for the Internet as the reason why they are not online," says IIA Co-Chairman David Sutphen. “But interestingly, 44 percent of these same respondents said they would be more likely to subscribe to Internet services if they were provided free lessons on how to use the technology and 30 percent would be more likely to adopt if they had more information about how they could benefit from going online. It’s clear that digital literacy programs indeed are a crucial part of the formula for closing the digital divide.”

Poll respondents agree why Internet access is so valuable:

* Sixty-four percent strongly believe it's important that students with Internet access can receive tutoring and help with their homework.

* Forty-three percent strongly agree that students with Internet access achieve higher grades.

* Sixty-one percent strongly feel households with Internet access have greater access to commerce, education, health care, entertainment and communication.

* Forty-eight percent strongly agree that Internet access is valuable because tech-connected families receive more health information.

* Sixty-two percent strongly believe individuals with Internet access have more opportunities to work from home.

* Sixty-eight percent strongly agree that small business owners with Internet access are better able to reach and expand their customer base.

* Fifty-one percent strongly feel Internet access increases awareness and access to government services.

Most of the respondents said they accessed the Internet from home – 78 percent – and slightly more than two-thirds said they access the Internet from a private portal, as opposed to a public portal, such as at anchor institutions like the library.

“It is clear that home Internet connections are critically important to expanding broadband access and adoption in communities of color,” says Sutphen. “Policy makers would be wise to keep this reality in mind as they consider ways to continue closing the digital divide and ensure that all Americans can benefit from broadband."

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