Data Analysis: “Broadband Subscriptions are Up, But Too Many Households are Still Disconnected”
The American economy has gone digital and broadband is the connective tissue enabling that transformation. Two decades into the 21st century, it’s impossible to categorize broadband as anything but essential infrastructure.
However, broadband doesn’t yet look like the country’s other essential systems. Unlike water and energy, which reach almost all households, broadband subscription gaps are sizable and build barriers to economic opportunity in the process. Whether it’s consumers who are forced to pay higher prices at a local store than online, children who must travel to do web-based homework, or job seekers missing out on employment openings, Americans who lack a private broadband subscription shoulder substantial costs.
It’s vital, then, to track how broadband subscriptions look across the country—both nationally and in individual communities. Over the past four years, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) has asked households whether they have access to the Internet “using a broadband (high speed) Internet service such as cable, fiber optic, or DSL service….” The answers reveal where subscriptions are ticking up and where gaps persist.
National Broadband Adoption Continues To Rise
Using ACS data from 2013 through 2017, we find that the country has adopted broadband service at growing rates, especially in some metro areas where subscription rates were the lowest. Yet inconsistent growth rates across metro areas confirm that many people are still left in the digital dark—and show just how far broadband performance is from matching other essential infrastructure systems.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.