CETF Press Release 2023 Statewide Survey

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.

The 2023 survey is the largest endeavor to date by USC Annenberg researchers and CETF in collaboration with California Department of Technology to obtain a highly representative sample of Californians.

“We went to great lengths developing a robust methodology to get the clearest picture of how Californians are faring in broadband adoption,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of CETF.  “We now know we still have some miles to go for Californians to achieve full adoption. The survey confirms that affordability remains the major barrier to broadband adoption and underscores the need to ensure that low-income households always will have affordable home internet service available to them.”

The researchers used a multimodal approach — an effective method for sampling hard-to-reach populations, including unconnected and under-connected households — by combining text-to-online responses with telephone interviews conducted through random digit dialing.  In addition, researchers oversampled residents in rural counties and low-income households, as well as people with disabilities.

CETF has sponsored the Statewide Digital Equity Survey since 2008. USC has been the independent research partner for conducting the CETF surveys in 2021 and 2023.

Read more »