17 Million Children Lack Broadband at Home – Many of them in Low-Income Households

By Tom Koutsky
Chief Policy Counsel, Connected Nation

Broadband has the potential to be the “great equalizer” in our society (to quote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski) – but unequal adoption and use of broadband can institutionalize economic and social inequality. If nearly two-thirds of low-income minority households do not have broadband at home, what does that mean for their educational and employment prospects five and ten years from now? What will the education landscape look like if two-thirds of students can integrate classroom teachings and lectures into their homework and assignments?

So while many families were enjoying summer break this year, here at Connected Nation we spent our summer asking those questions, interviewing over 27,000 consumers on whether and how they used broadband, and exploring in detail the reasons why one-third of all households do not have broadband service at home. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing the results of these surveys, with the goal of zeroing in on particularly challenging and vulnerable populations.

Today, the first of these studies, (The Adoption Gap in Low-Income Families with Children) contains findings that are particularly important for education and communications policy. We find that—

• Approximately 17 million children do not have broadband at home – and that approximately 7.6 million of these children live in low-income households

• Only 37% of low-income minority households with children have broadband at home, and only 46% of all low-income households with children have broadband at home

40% of low-income households do not own a computer, while 91% of all other households have this technology at home

• For low-income households, the cost of access and computer ownership is by far the most-cited reason why they do not adopt broadband

But it is one thing to identify a gap — it is quite another thing to solve it. And Connected Nation research points the way. We made it a point to speak to over 15,000 non-adopting households, to find out what motivated that decision – and to find out what might change their minds.

For low-income households with children, cost is by far the largest barrier to adoption. This research indicates that bundled service discount programs like Comcast’s Internet Essentials, which is being launched in Washington, DC today, have the potential to close this gap.

Importantly, our 2011 survey results reveal an important trend. For the population as a whole, the cost of access or a computer is cited by nearly one-third of all non-adopters as the main reason for not adopting broadband.

Click here to download the white paper and see more of the results of this survey.

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