Nearly one-third of American households still lack access to broadband Internet connection speeds, and gaps exist in Internet usage exist among certain socio-economic groups, according to the report “Digital Nation: Expanding Internet Usage” released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Between 5 percent and 10 percent of U.S. citizens don’t have access to Internet speeds able to handle some Web pages, media or video conferencing. The findings also show that not only do wealthier communities have greater access to faster Internet speeds, they’re often available at cheaper prices.
The Obama administration feels that broadband is pivotal to bringing businesses and economic opportunities to depressed communities. To that end, President Barack Obama recently announced a National Wireless Initiative in response to the findings, setting the goal for all Americans (at least 98%) have access to high-speed wireless services (4G) within the next five years.
“We need to make sure no one is left behind in the digital age,” wrote Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information for the U.S. Department of Commerce in the report’s foreword.
Along with the report a new website, www.broadbandmap.gov, was launched, featuring a detailed, interactive online map showing high-speed Internet connections and speeds available across the country. The map was a mandate of the 2009 economic stimulus bill and details some key findings about Internet availability to the public.
But some feel the map is lacking. “While the idea here is good, the execution leaves much to be desired; for instance, the NTIA has done little testing to determine what speeds ISPs are actually delivering,” wrote Wayne Karrfalt for Cynopsis: Digital. “I recommend longtime broadband ratings site DSL Reports if you want some real data. DSL Reports (registration required, but it’s free) relies on speed tests performed by users to rank broadband offerings, which are searchable by zip code.”
Here are some additional findings from the Internet report:
- People with college degrees adopt broadband at almost triple the rate of those with some high school education (84% versus 30%), among adults 25 years and older.
- The rates for White (68%) and Asian non-Hispanics (69%) exceed those for Black non-Hispanics (50%) and Hispanics (45%) by 18 percentage points or more.
- Rural America lags behind urban areas by 10 percentage points (60% versus 70%).
- The two most frequently cited reasons for not having broadband Internet access at home were “don’t need/not interested” in it (46%) or “too expensive” (25%). “No/inadequate computer” (14%) ranked third, according to the report.
- Cost also became more important in such decisions for lower income, and Black non-Hispanic or Hispanic households.
- Urban and rural households both ranked “don’t need,” “too expensive,” and “no/inadequate computer” as their top three reasons, but lack of broadband availability was much more important for rural areas (9.4%) than urban locations (1.0%).
A report released in January 2011 called the Government Broadband Index (gBBi) (the first of its kind) assessed countries on the basis of government planning, as opposed to current broadband capability. South-east Asia scored highest while Greece performed the worst, thanks to its low coverage target and slow deployment schedule.
What do you think about the government’s role in this initiative?