A Statewide Survey Shows The Digital Divide Narrowing In California, But Many Low-Income Residents Remain Under-Connected

The latest statewide survey by USC researchers and the California Emerging Technology Fund indicates that 91% of households in California have broadband, yet challenges persist for low-income K-12 families, including some who lost connectivity after COVID.

Statewide broadband adoption remains high with 91% of households in California enjoying high-speed internet access at home, according to new survey results released today by USC, the California Emerging Technology Fund and the California Department of Technology.

The overall findings are consistent with the 2021 results of the biennial Statewide Digital Equity Survey, which monitors Californians’ digital access. The latest findings also reveal that the percentage of under-connected households — those with only a smartphone — was cut in half from 6% to 3%.

However, broadband adoption among families with school-age children decreased from 97% in 2021 to 93% in 2023, likely due to the expiration of school-based programs that sponsored internet connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, fewer children in K-12 households have a desktop, laptop or tablet computer available at home to use for school activities that are not shared with other family members, a decline from nearly 95% in 2021 to about 72% in 2023, the researchers found.

“There was significant progress in reducing the number of under-connected households,” said Hernán Galperin, the study’s lead researcher and a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “However, our latest data also point to the sobering reality of the challenges in reaching the most digitally disadvantaged households.”

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