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Internet Use in America: Where, Why, and How?

Posted on 07/12/2013

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Earlier this month, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA External link opens in new window or tab) released a new report, Exploring the Digital Nation: America's Emerging Online Experience External link opens in new window or tab, co-authored with the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA External link opens in new window or tab). The report is based on the U.S. Census Bureau's July 2011 Current Population Survey (CPS External link opens in new window or tab), Computer and Internet Use Supplement and includes information collected from 53,500 households. Report data reveal dramatic growth in the number of Americans going online and the extent to which they depend on the Internet to engage in a wide range of activities—such as applying for jobs, looking up health information, and civic engagement.

The report shows that 72.4 percent of American households (88 million households) have high-speed Internet. While most Americans still use a desktop or laptop computer to go online, mobile device use grew significantly. Further, almost all home Internet use came via a broadband connection.

Exploring the Digital Nation, showed that digital service adoption rates varied by location. Urban households have higher rates of computer ownership and broadband adoption than rural areas. White, Asian-American, high-income, and highly educated households also had higher rates of ownership and adoption rates compared to rural African American and Hispanic households. Despite an increase in the overall percentage of Americans who use the Internet, and the fact that 90 percent of Americans live in areas where high-speed Internet is available, only about seven out of 10 American households are now online at home. About half of the households that chose to not have home Internet connections said it was due to a lack of affordability, and inadequate computing equipment.

Households with school-age children were more likely than those without children to own a computer and to adopt broadband. The overwhelming majority (92 percent) of people who accessed the Internet did so from home with the remaining Internet users going online at public libraries, workplaces, school, other people's houses, cafés, and community centers.

The report shows that widespread Internet use benefits society. Even so, approximately 30 percent of the 119 million households represented in the CPS did not use the Internet at home, which contributed to the persistence of a "digital divide." In light of that, an ongoing focus of the CPS data collections in the Digital Nation series will be to examine households that do not have broadband Internet service to assess why they do not. Broadband adoption is seen as key to ensuring that all Americans can take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy.

From the OVAE Connection External link opens in new window or tab newsletter of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U. S. Department of Education, June 27, 2013.

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