Under-Connected: The Enduring Problem of California’s Digital Divide

Almost 94 % of Californians have some form of internet connection at home – including through their mobile phones. But Blacks and Latinos, especially low income and less educated families, have less access and often have to share one device with multiple users, according to a fact sheet released this month by the Public Policy institute of California (PPIC).

In California, the digital divide is reflective of our economic and racial differences. The gaps, experts say, take on deeper significance at a time when the global coronavirus pandemic has exposed how economic inequality can impact people’s access to information and opportunity. The pandemic has altered the way most Americans live, increasing our dependency on the internet for everything from keeping up with critical public safety information to learning, working, shopping and staying in touch with family and friends.

“As going digital is a way of life, we are encouraged to see that overall internet adoption is increasing,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, president and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CEMT) in a statement.

“Still, far too many Californians are up against a wall of poverty. From our work in education and telehealth, we know home internet is a catalyst for expanding opportunity for all Californians. It’s time for leadership from the highest levels of government and business to crush the wall of poverty,” McPeak emphasized.

Founded by the leadership of the California Public Utilities Commission and based in Los Angeles, CEMT describes itself as a public benefit foundation.

PPIC pulled much of the data used in its report from the 2020 American Community Survey (ACS).

The numbers reveal that only 80% of Latino households and 83% of Black households reported having broadband in 2020 compared to 87% of White households. 76% of households with annual income below $50,000 were less likely to report broadband access.