DATA: African Americans are less likely to have broadband at home

Honoring Black History Month

By Jessica Denson, Communications Director
Connected Nation

This month, Connected Nation, like many groups and individuals around the country, is taking time to mark Black History Month. It is a time to not only celebrate Black history makers but also to examine critical issues that impact African American communities.

Connected Nation’s mission as a national nonprofit is rooted in work to close the Digital Divide.  That requires understanding who lacks access to broadband (high-speed internet) and why.

According to the Pew Research Center*, African Americans are less likely to subscribe to home broadband service (66%, compared to 73% nationally). This is high-speed internet that can be used on a laptop, desktop, or iPad.

In addition, the population is more likely to be smartphone-only internet users than other groups. Right now, 23% of Blacks use only their smartphones compared to 17% nationally.

Pew researchers did ask why smartphone-only internet users were not subscribing to broadband internet. The top answer? The cost of a broadband subscription is too expensive. However, that number now sits at 50% of smartphone-only internet users, down from 59% in 2015 who said the cost was too much.

Other reasons for not subscribing to home broadband include: smartphone does everything you need (45%; up from 27% in 2015); other options for internet access available outside the home (43%; down from 46% in 2015); cost of computer is too expensive (31%; down from 45% in 2015); and service is not available or speed is unacceptable (22%; a change from 23% in 2015).

Unfortunately, the research does not break down the “why” by ethic groups. But, if a larger number of African Americans are smartphone-only internet users compared to overall national numbers, then it’s not hard to draw the line to a need for more affordable broadband access programs within the Black community.

Imagine trying to apply for a job or write a report for school using only a smartphone, and those are only two on a long list of benefits attached to having better internet access.

We must do better as a country to help Black community members—and others who are stuck in the Digital Divide—access the resources available through broadband access. 

Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.

 *Source: Pew Research Center, Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019

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