November 16th, 2011 | Posted in Population Basics
by Eric Zuehlke, web communications manager
Some new data are available in a recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce on internet access in the United States. Overall, 7 out 10 American households have broadband internet access, a higher figure than I would have guessed. Predictably, there is a strong correlation between socioeconomic factors and internet access, with poorer and less-educated households less likely to have broadband in their homes. But income and education don’t explain the whole picture. There is a strong racial and geographic disparity as well: 81 percent of Asian households and 72 percent of white households have broadband, while only 57 percent of Hispanic and 55 percent of black households do. In addition, while 70 percent of urban households have broadband, only 57 percent of rural households have high-speed internet access. A variety of initiatives are attempting to address the urban/rural broadband gap. A $7 billion program by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture is providing grants to state and local projects that are developing broadband infrastructure and expanding computer access in public schools.
These data made me curious to find how American public schools are faring in terms of internet access. To my surprise, according to a 2010 report from the U.S. Department for Education based on data from 2008, 100 percent of U.S. schools have one or more instructional computers with internet access and 97 percent of schools had one or more instructional computers located in classrooms. Of course, whether these computers are new or work well, and whether the internet connection is reliable, especially in poorer communities, isn’t clear. The report does, however, note that “opinions on the use of educational technology in the school differed by poverty concentration. A larger percentage of schools with low poverty concentration than schools with high poverty concentration agreed that — teachers are sufficiently trained in technology usage (74 percent versus 62 percent).”