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

Honoring Black History Month

By Jessica Denson, Communications Director
Connected Nation

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Bowling Green, (February 15, 2021) - 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. 

Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.

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

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