Gaps exist in broadband use, government report finds

December 9, 2010

Socioeconomic factors such as income and education levels, although strongly associated with broadband Internet use, are not the sole determinants of use, according to ?Digital Nation II,? a new report issued by the Department of Commerce?s Economics and Statistics Administration and National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Socioeconomic factors such as income and education levels, although strongly associated with broadband Internet use, are not the sole determinants of use, according to "Digital Nation II," a new report issued by the Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The report analyzed broadband Internet access and adoption across the United States and found that, even after accounting for socioeconomic differences, significant gaps persist along racial, ethnic, and geographic lines.

Additional findings of the report:

Seven out of 10 American households used the Internet in 2009. The majority of these households used broadband to access the Internet at home. Almost one-fourth of all households, however, did not have an Internet user.

Broadband Internet adoption was higher among households identifying as White than among households identifying as Black or Hispanic. Differences in socioeconomic attributes do not explain the entire gap associated with race and ethnicity.

Urban residents were more likely than their rural counterparts to adopt broadband Internet, even after accounting for socioeconomic differences.

Differences in socioeconomic and geographic characteristics explain a substantial portion of the broadband adoption lag among people with disabilities.

The elderly population is much less likely to use home broadband Internet services than those who are younger.

Lack of need or interest, lack of affordability, lack of an adequate computer, and lack of availability all were stated as the main reasons for not having home broadband Internet access. The significance of these factors, however, varied across non-users, with affordability and demand generally dominating.

Internet non-users reported lack of need or interest as their primary reason for not having broadband at home. This group accounted for two-thirds of those who don't have broadband at home. In contrast, households that did not use the Internet specifically at home but did use the Internet elsewhere ranked affordability as the primary deterrent to home broadband adoption. This group represented almost one-fourth of those who don't have broadband at home.

Households that use dial-up service cited affordability as the main reason for not adopting broadband at home. For rural residents using dial-up service, lack of broadband availability was reported as a significant factor.

From 2001 to 2009, broadband Internet use among American households increased from 9% to 64% of the households.

Some of the demographic groups that had lower-than-average adoption rates in 2001 have since shown large gains, but sizable gaps remain among demographic groups defined by income, education, race, and ethnicity. Similarly, despite gains in adoption rates within geographic areas, significant gaps in adoption still exist among the states, some regions, and between urban and rural locations.

The report analyzed data collected through an Internet usage survey of 54,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2009.