Home Broadband Subscriptions Are Up, But “Digital Divide” Persists in the U.S.

Broadband Subscriptions Are Up, But “Digital Divide” Persists in the U.S.

Data from the latest U.S. Census reveals that even though the number of households with broadband has increased sevenfold since 2001, the “digital divide” continues, with low-income, rural and minority groups less likely to have broadband access at home.

And even when controlling for socio-economic factors, some of these gaps persist, with minorities and rural residents less likely to have high-speed Internet than their urban and white counterparts.

63.5% of U.S. households now have broadband subscriptions, according to the Commerce Department report, compiled from a Census survey of 54,000 households in October 2009.

But households with less than $25,000 had an adoption rate of 35.8% – although it’s notable that this is still a twelvefold increase from 2001. And in households where the head had less than a high school diploma, the broadband adoption rate was only 28.8%. At the other extreme, 94.1% of households with more than $100,000 income had broadband, as did 84.5% of those with college degrees.

77.3% of Asian-American households and 68% of non-Hispanic white households subscribed to broadband last year, compared to only 49.4% of African-American households and 47.9% of Hispanic households. And 65.9% of urban households had high-speed Internet, while only 51% of rural households did. Mississippi ranked last in terms of states’ adoption rate, with only 42% of customers subscribing.

Other demographics with low adoption included those with disabilities (37.5%).

The reasons given most frequently for not having broadband at home were “Don’t need it” (38%) and “Too expensive” (26%).

In response to the findings, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement today that “The digital divide is an opportunity divide – if you can’t get online, you can’t compete in the digital economy.” Genachowski says closing these gaps will be one of the top priorities in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

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