Smart Takes

FCC: 35% of Americans don't have broadband Internet access

FCC: 35% of Americans don't have broadband Internet access

Posting in Education

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission reports that 35 percent of Americans -- that's 93 million people -- don't have broadband Internet access.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday released a survey revealing that 35 percent of Americans -- that's 93 million people -- don't have broadband Internet access.

That's almost one-third of the entire nation.

The survey, titled "Broadband Adoption and Use in America," found that affordability and a lack of digital skills are the primary reasons behind the lapse in connectivity.

"In the 21st century, a digital divide is an opportunity divide," FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said in prepared remarks. "To bolster American competitiveness abroad and create the jobs of the future here at home, we need to make sure that all Americans have the skills and means to fully participate in the digital economy."

The FCC plans to deliver a national broadband plan to Congress on March 17. The risks of this disconnect (literally and figuratively) are many: jobs, economic growth, innovation, investment and improvement in education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety and democracy all benefit from being wired.

According to the FCC, there are three main barriers to high-speed broadband Internet adoption:

Affordability: 36 percent (28 million) said they don't have broadband because it's either too expensive (15 percent), the installation fee is too high (10 percent), they don't want a contract (9 percent) or simply can't afford a computer. Survey respondents said their average monthly broadband bill is
$41.

Digital Literacy: 22 percent (17 million) said they don't have home broadband because they lack digital skills (12 percent) or are concerned about security or exposure to inappropriate content (10 percent).

Relevance: 19 percent (15 million) said they don't have broadband because they believe that the Internet is a waste of time or that they're happy with their current dialup service.

According to the survey, non-adopters tended to have more than one of these barriers, and more than half chose three or more.

The good news? About 30 percent of non-adopters are "near converts," who are about 45 years of age and are on-board with everything except the price.

Another 22 percent are "digital hopefuls" who aren't digitally literate but see the benefit of broadband, despite lacking the funds to pay for it, This group is heavily Hispanic and has a high share of African-Americans, according to the study.

Of the rest, 20 percent are "digitally uncomfortable" for which high-speed Internet doesn't appeal and 29 percent are "digitally distant" who don't see the point of the Internet at all.

The median age of that group? Sixty-three years old.

Share this

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure