A recent report by Pew Research provides us with updated statistics on the digital divide, revealing that 77% of Americans subscribe to home broadband services in 2021. While this is a slight increase from 2019 (73%), about a quarter of the population still does not have a broadband internet connection at home.
One of the most significant reasons that people remain without access is the high cost of connectivity. According to Pew’s most recent survey, 45% of nonbroadband users say that the monthly cost of a home broadband subscription is too expensive, while about 37% say the same about the cost of a computer.
In line with this trend are the significant gaps in broadband access between income levels. While 92% of adults in households earning $75,000 or more per year say they have broadband internet at home, that share falls to 57% among those whose annual household income is below $30,000. Similarly, broadband adoption varies greatly between age demographics. Consistent with previous years’ findings, adults over the age of 65 are less likely to own a smartphone or have home broadband access.
Pew’s findings make it clear that broadband distribution is not equitable, but the tools and services of the internet are essential for all people, no matter their socioeconomic status or age group. Although many nonbroadband users claim they are uninterested in having internet service at home, previous surveys have indicated that not having broadband could be tied to a number of disadvantages. Relying on a smartphone for internet access may prevent someone from engaging in tasks that are better suited for larger screens, like completing job applications or accessing government services. Without home broadband, it is more difficult to use tools like online banking, voter registration, telemedicine, and online documentation.
At the same time, none of these tools are fully accessible until users have a certain degree of digital literacy. As more tools and services transition to online formats, lacking broadband and digital skills can exacerbate long-standing inequalities. Now is the time to ensure that everyone has access to the internet along with the ability to use it with confidence. Consider donating to our mission to transform lives through digital literacy!