Digital Divide Survey Finds Home Connectivity Up, But Cost Is A Barrier

Digital Divide Survey Finds Home Connectivity Up, but Cost Is a Barrier
CETF Urges California ISPs to Boost Awareness, Sign-Ups of Lower-Cost Options

Oakland and Los Angeles, CA – A new survey of California households finds while progress is being made in connecting low-income households to high-speed Internet, cost and lack of awareness of more affordable subscriptions are standing barriers to closing the Digital Divide.  The study was a follow-up survey of Californians who had previously participated in the California Emerging Technology Fund’s (CETF) 2017 Annual Survey on Broadband Adoption.  Participants in the survey were re-interviewed approximately one year later in June 2018 by Davis Research on behalf of CETF.  The 2017 Survey found that 31% of California households are unconnected or under-connected:  13% have no high-speed Internet service at home and 18% connect to the Internet only with a mobile phone, which limits the ability of students to gain the skills needed to compete in the global economy and adults to successfully apply for jobs.

The 2018 Follow Up Survey finds that among those currently unconnected or under-connected to the Internet at home, 82%[1]cited the fully connected service as “too expensive”, and 54%[2]say cost is the primary reason for going without Internet home access.  In addition to lack of accessibility and affordability, the survey reveals there is generally low awareness of discount Internet service offers that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) make available to unconnected or under-connected households. Nearly three quarters[3]of survey respondents in these households report that they have not heard about a discount offer.  To learn about low-cost, affordable Internet programs in your area, visit http://www.internetforallnow.org/get_affordable_internet_today.

The survey finds many Californians believe home Internet access is critical for success: 85%[4]of all respondents say it is important for the state to ensure that all California households have access to high-speed Internet through a computer, laptop or tablet.

“California needs to act now to get everyone online who wants to save time and money, reduce impacts on the environment, and participate in the Digital Economy,” said CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak.  “It is embarrassing that in a state known as the world’s innovator, almost a third of the residents continue to be disenfranchised from taking full advantage of online educational, healthcare, job and civic engagement opportunities, and even public services.”

Californians’ access to home Internet fluctuates from year-to-year as some residents who were previously unconnected or under-connected migrate up to computer access, while others who formerly had computer access migrate down.  “This churn is most likely the result of changing economic circumstances affecting the state’s householders,” said Mark DiCamillo, who directed both the follow-up survey for Davis Research and CETF’s original 2017 broadband study.

The biggest disadvantages of being under-connected or unconnected to home broadband, according to these households, are inability to:  Learn about or get access to government services (51%), do job searches and apply for work online (50%), assist in their children’s education (45%), get health and medical information or communicate with a doctor (45%), gain new career skills through online classes or training (43%), or keep up with the news (40%).[5]

“In the spirit of public-private collaboration, we are asking state Legislators and regulators (California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Communications Commission) to urge ISPs to regularly and publicly report their progress on expanding awareness and signing up low-income households for discount offers,” announced Dr. Barbara O’Connor, Emeritus Professor of Communications and Director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University Sacramento and Co-Chair of the CETF Board of Directors.  “Through our decade of experience, we know public reporting of progress is critical for transparency, accountability and targeting public and private resources to those who need them most.”  She added the seriousness of this data is crucial as some discount Internet services offers are set to expire soon.

In May, in a joint effort to accelerate efforts in signing-up low-income Americans who are the most in need of low-cost/ affordable broadband offers, CETF, The Greenlining Institute and The Utility Reform Network (TURN) sent a letter to FCC members urging them to take action by requesting that ISPs make public adoption data detailing their progress in signing up low-income Americans for affordable broadband.

In June, prior to retiring from the FCC, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn issued a statement in support of greater public transparency by ISPs disclosing data on affordable Internet programs.  Her statement concludes such information would be invaluable to all entities involved in closing the Digital Divide in low-income communities:

“I urge ISPs to look for ways to improve their outreach and bring more attention to their low-income programs, disclose relevant data on these programs, and detail their progress in connecting low-income consumers through both voluntary or mandated affordable broadband offers. Digital literacy training is also an important component to close the opportunities divide, a public disclosure of any data detailing outreach and digital literacy initiatives would be very helpful.”

About the survey: On behalf of CETF, Davis Research in June 2018 re-interviewed 546 of 1,628 original participants in the 2017 Annual Survey who agreed to be re-interviewed in 2018 to measure progress and identify barriers to home broadband adoption. Davis Research applied significance testing with a 95% confidence level.


About California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF)

The mission of CETF is to close the Digital Divide in California.  The overall goal is to reach 98% of all California residences in every region with broadband infrastructure and to achieve 90% home broadband adoption by 2023.  CETF is technology neutral:  “broadband” is a generic term for high-speed Internet access-wireline and wireless Internet service is faster than a dial-up connection.  CETF strives to achieve these goals through public awareness, education, grantmaking to community organizations, and advancing public policy.  For more information, please visit www.cetfund.org.

1. Table 5 in 2018 CETF Follow Up Survey

2. Table 5 in 2018 CETF Follow Up Survey

3. Table 6 in 2018 CETF Follow Up Survey

4. Table 10 in 2018 CETF Follow Up Survey

5. Table 4 in 2018 CETF Follow Up Survey