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U.S. Census Shares New Broadband Adoption Data

Bowling Green, KY. (October 4, 2019) -Last week, the United States Census Bureau released new findings from the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS), including updates about broadband adoption in the country.

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While this figure remains largely unchanged, this new ACS data highlights the growing prevalence of smartphones in American households. Nearly 103 million U.S. households had smartphones in 2018, representing 84 percent of homes in the country. In fact, nearly 11 million households had smartphones instead of other types of computers. Overall, one in eight households (12, representing more than 14 million households) only had a cellular data plan with no other type of internet service in the home.

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On a state-by-state basis, Nevada experienced the biggest increase in the number of households with landline broadband service, jumping 3.6 percentage points between 2017 and 2018, while Idaho saw the biggest drop in households without any internet service.

The growth in smartphone access in households is not surprising: Smartphones represent cheaper alternatives to computers and have the added benefit of mobility. At the same time, though, the large number of applications that require a computer (or are much easier on a computer) such as filling out work applications, doing homework, or working from home, mean that home computers are going to remain a necessity and are necessary to get the full benefit of broadband service.

Tracking the number of households with computers and internet connections of all types is beneficial for a multitude of reasons for parties ranging from entrepreneurs to internet providers to policymakers and researchers. Unfortunately, this data is limited to larger territories (those with populations of 65,000 or more), meaning that many parts of the country that are in the greatest need are unable to be measured using this data. This emphasizes the need for granular, grass- roots efforts to explore home broadband adoption in rural and remote parts of the country, often the areas with greatest need. National or state information isn’t going to help address the local issues that these communities face. That will require working with those communities to address and overcome their unique obstacles.