Broadband's digital divide widened over past two years

Posted by Mark Raby

Washington (DC) - Although broadband penetration among minorities has risen significantly in the past two years, it still can't catch up to the growth in other demographics.

Based on a study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 94% of people who use the Internet on a regular basis have an Internet connection at home.  Among all Internet users aggregately, 70% use a broadband connection.  Only 2% of computer owners said they don't have Internet access.

However, the group of users without broadband continues to be made up with a majority of minorities, including senior citizens, those without higher education, and people in rural areas.

Demographically speaking, the most prominent users of broadband are households that earn over $75,000 per year.  Other strong demographic indicators include age, education, and community type.

63% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have a broadband connection at home.  That number slowly drops as the age level rises.  59% of people aged 30 to 49 have broadband, and 40% of 50- to 64-year-olds.  Only 15% of people over 65 have a home broadband connection.

People with a college education are also very likely to have broadband access, according to the survey.  70% of those with a degree have broadband, as well as 58% of people with some college coursework.  34% of people whose highest education is a high school diploma have high-speed Internet.  That number is only 21% for high school dropouts or lower education.

Finally, people who live in rural communities are still slow on catching up to the broadband revolution.  31% of those surveyed who live in a rural area said they have a high speed connection.  52% of people in urban communities and 49% of those in suburbia said they have broadband.

In each of these demographics, the group with that had the highest broadband penetration in 2005 grew at more rapid paces than any other group, thus causing an even greater digital divide.

Ethnicity is the opposite, however, and has come the farthest in closing the digital divide.  In 2005, 14% of black Americans had high speed, compared to 31% of whites.  Now, those numbers are 40% and 48%, respectively, a significantly smaller gap.