Broadband adoption in rural households still lags behind urban households

This feels like old news – but unfortunately it’s still true, the NTIA (National Telecommunications & Information Administration) have been shuffling their numbers (from July 2015) and have found that folks in rural America are adopting Internet technology at slower paces that urban areas.

rural urban

And other demographic characteristics don’t really change the landscape…

All persons, regardless of race or ethnicity, were less likely to use the Internet when living in rural areas, but certain groups of rural residents face a particularly large digital divide.  For example, 78 percent of Whites nationally used the Internet in 2015, compared to 68 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics. In rural areas, 70 percent of White Americans had adopted the Internet, compared to 59 percent of African Americans and 61 percent of Hispanics.

And it’s not just access to broadband – it’s access or use of devices as well…

Living in a rural area was also associated with lower levels of device use, Internet use at particular locations, and participation in online activities. Overall, we found rural users were less likely than their urban counterparts to report using a desktop (29 percent for rural users to 35 percent for urban users), a laptop (39 percent to 48 percent), a tablet (24 percent to 30 percent), or an Internet-enabled mobile phone (45 percent to 54 percent). Rural residents were also less likely to use the Internet from home (61 percent to 69 percent) and at work (22 percent to 29 percent). In terms of online services and functions, rural residents who indicated they did use the Internet were still less likely than urban residents to use email (86 percent to 92 percent), social media (68 percent to 71 percent), and online video or voice conferencing (28 percent to 38 percent) than Internet users in urban areas. While some of these differences may seem relatively modest, they are statistically significant. Lastly, rural individuals were more likely than their urban counterparts not to own any Internet compatible devices (33 percent to 26 percent), and were less likely to own more than one device.

Based on these results, it appears there is a continuing need to address the obstacles rural residents face in Internet use. For instance, some households may require subsidies to make the Internet more affordable, while others may need digital literacy training to make the Internet more useful to them. Even today, some remote rural communities still lack Internet access at all or the service available may be poor or prohibitively expensive.

It is interesting to note that while being in rural areas clearly has an impact – when you look at education attainment and income those characteristics have a seemingly greater impact. Percentage of rural residents with college degree who use the internet is 80 percent compared 59 percent of urban residents without a high school diploma.



This entry was posted in Research, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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