January 16, 2022

New: NTIA Data and Analysis on “State of the Urban/Rural Digital Divide”

From the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA):

While 75 percent of Americans reported using the Internet in July 2015, the longstanding disparity between urban and rural users persists and has emerged in the adoption of new technologies such as the smartphone and social media, according to the latest computer and Internet use data collected for NTIA. This suggests that in spite of advances in both policy and technology, the barriers to Internet adoption existing in rural communities are complex and stubborn.

In particular, Americans who were otherwise less likely to use the Internet—such as those with lower levels of family income or education—faced an even larger disadvantage when living in a rural area. Conversely, rural individuals with higher levels of education or family income did not have significantly lower adoption rates than their urban counterparts, according to the data. The data comes from NTIA’s Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.


While the digital divide appears to be closing for some demographic communities, the gap between rural and urban populations has remained remarkably consistent for at least as long as NTIA has been gathering data on Internet use. In 1998, 28 percent of Americans living in rural areas used the Internet, compared to 34 percent of those in urban areas. Even as Internet use increased dramatically overall, a rural/urban gap remained in 2015, with 69 percent of rural residents reporting using the Internet, versus 75 percent of urban residents. This data indicates a fairly constant 6-9 percentage point gap between rural and urban communities’ Internet use over time.

The State of the Urban/Rural Digital Divide

Internet Use from Any Location by Population Density Percent of Americans Ages 3+, 1998-2015 Source: NTIA Blog (August 10, 2016)

Read the Complete NTIA Blog Post and View Three Additional Charts

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.