Pew Internet: The digital divide persists

"Digital differences," A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project reveals some discouraging statistics: Just 62 percent of U.S. adults have a broadband connection at home. Among those who don't 35 percent said that it costs too much; 17 percent said it wasn't available; and 20 percent said nothing would get them to use broadband.

Although access to the Internet is increasing in the U.S., the report says, "... differences in internet access still exist among different demographic groups, especially when it comes to access to high-speed broadband at home."

The racial divide remains: two thirds (66%) of whites and roughly half of African Americans (49%) and Hispanics (51%) have broadband at home. But the lowest levels of access are not strictly racial. According to the report:

"...we see adoption levels of 22% for adults who have not completed high school, 30% for seniors age 65 and older, and 41% for those who live in households making less than $30,000 per year. This is compared with 85% of college graduates, 76% of adults under age 30, and 89% of those making at least $75,000 per year."

In addition, Digital Differences said that one-fifth of Americans still do not use the Internet, but that this 20 percent was concentrated in certain groups: "Senior citizens, those who prefer to take our interviews in Spanish rather than English, adults with less than a high school education, and those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year."

Of those who don't use the Internet, nearly half say it's not relevant to them. "Most have never used the internet before, and don't have anyone in their household who does... and only one in ten told us that they were interested in [beginning]."

Most troubling, though, "The 27% of adults living with disability in the U.S. today are significantly less likely than adults without a disability to go online (54% vs. 81%)."

Pew notes that ownership of mobile devices is extremely widespread and that low-income people use them as much, or more, than more comfortable Americans. But, as Speed Matters has stressed, lack of full broadband hampers people in the workplace, with health care and in keeping up with public life. We urge that the U.S. continue its drive to bring broadband to all.

Digital Differences (Pew Internet, Apr. 13, 2012)