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One-fifth of Americans still don?t use the Internet

21 Aug, 2013

In a Monday story at the top of the business section, The New York Times noted a persistent and discouraging paradox: “Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In.”

Millions of Americans – some 20 percent of adults – don’t use the Internet “at home, work and school, or by mobile device.” The Times said that, “...around 60 million people, is shut off from jobs, government services, health care and education, and that the social and economic effects of that gap are looming larger.” The effects of the digital divide remain perilous. “Persistent digital inequality – caused by the inability to afford Internet service, lack of interest or a lack of computer literacy – is also deepening racial and economic disparities in the United States, experts say.”

Perhaps most dispiriting is that this 20 percent gap has persisted since Barack Obama took office in 2009 and launched a $7 billion set of programs to increase access and computer literacy around the country,

Speed Matters has been reporting on the uneven nature of the digital divide for some years now, and it remains in place. Americans with lower Internet adoption rates include: older Americans, African Americans, rural Americans, residents of the South, and, of course, low-income Americans.

The result is, that despite a current jump in adoption, due most likely to smart phone sales, “the United States, with the world’s largest economy by far, ranked seventh among 20 major global economies in 2012, down from fourth in 2000.”

More encouraging is, perhaps, a push to make Internet more affordable to low-income households. Both the FCC and some Internet providers have begun service for as low as $10 a month to qualified subscribers.

Since the Internet is today a necessity not a luxury, Speed Matters urges the nation to redouble its efforts to connect each and every American.

Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In (NY Times, Aug. 19, 2013)

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