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Who (Still) Doesn’t Have Broadband?

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High-speed Internet went mainstream in the last decade — home access grew from 9 percent of American households in 2001 to 64 percent in 2009 — but the broadband gap still cuts strongly along racial and economic lines, according to a report (PDF) released Monday by the Commerce Department.

Demographic disparities among adoption rates persist, the report found, even when incomes and ages are similar. Closing that gap remains a major goal of the Obama administration and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

“The learning from today’s report is that there is no simple ‘one size fits all’ solution to closing the digital divide,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Among the findings:

> – Broadband Internet adoption was higher among White households than among Black and Hispanic households. Differences in socio-economic attributes do not explain the entire gap associated with race and ethnicity.

  • A similar pattern holds for urban and rural locations. Urban residents were more likely than their rural counterparts to adopt broadband Internet, even after accounting for socio-economic differences.
  • In contrast, differences in socio-economic and geographic characteristics do explain a substantial portion of the broadband adoption lag among people with disabilities.
  • Broadband adoption also varies with age, with the elderly population much less likely than their younger counterparts to use home broadband Internet services.
  • Lack of need or interest, lack of affordability, lack of an adequate computer, and lack of availability were all stated as the main reasons for not having home broadband Internet access. The significance of these factors, however, varied across non-users, with affordability and demand generally dominating.
  • Internet non-users reported lack of need or interest as their primary reason for not having broadband at home. This group accounted for two-thirds of those who don’t have broadband at home. In contrast, households that did not use the Internet specifically at home but did use the Internet elsewhere ranked affordability as the primary deterrent to home broadband adoption. This group represented almost one-fourth of those who don’t have broadband at home.
  • Households that use dial-up service cited affordability as the main reason for not adopting broadband at home. For rural residents using dial-up service, lack of broadband availability was reported as a significant factor.

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