A new report out this week says that while Californians are connected to the Internet at a record percentage in 2021, nearly 2 million households remain digitally-disadvantaged. The Digital Divide has grown more acute for low-income and Latino households, seniors, and people with disabilities, according to a survey by the California Emerging Technology Fund and USC.
Key findings from the survey include:
90% of the state’s households have high-speed Internet connectivity at home through either a computing device or a smartphone.
9.6% are unconnected (about 1.25 million households); and 5.6% are underconnected (about 730,000 households).
More than a quarter of Californians age 65 and older (28%) and people with disabilities (27%) are unconnected or underconnected with only a smartphone, compared to 15% for the overall population.
Disadvantages have grown more acute since the pandemic with so many activities having gone digital, including education, work, healthcare and access to government services.
Affordability is the main reason that keeps these households from connecting to the Internet with digital literacy and the lack of an appropriate computing device also being relevant factors.
Income is a key determinant in whether a household has Internet access. Among households earning less than $40,000 a year, 29% have no connection or only have access through a smartphone.
The survey included 1,650 California adults and was conducted between February 10 and March 22, 2021.
Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations representing education, local government, and economic policy called on Gov. Newsom to support a one-time $8 billion investment in funding to help close the Digital Divide. The group, which included the California State Association of Counties and CAFWD, among others, cited a report commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission that estimated the cost of building fiber connections to every unserved residence in California would be $6.8 billion. The request also includes $1.2 billion for programs to increase adoption, such as providing devices and digital skills training for Californians.