Thursday, November 25, 2010

Digital divide still wide and deep: Pew Research report

The Pew Internet and American Life Project's latest report, "Use of the internet in higher-income households," shows that a wide digital divide still exists between the better-off, as Pew calls them, and those with less income. While it may seem obvious, the report has data to back up what seems to be common sense.

The study compared households making $75,000 or more annually with those with lesser incomes.

Among the findings:
  • 93 percent of higher-income (over $75,000) home internet users have some type of broadband connection versus 85 percent of the internet users who live in households earning less than $75,000 per year. That doesn't mean that lower income households don't browse the web: 93 percent of lower income households use the internet at home, compared with 99 percent of higher income households.
  • In terms of personal computers, 79 percent of those living in households earning $75,000 or more own desktop computers, compared with 55 percent of those living in less well-off homes; 79 percent of those living in higher-income households own laptops, compared with 47 percent of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 70 percent of those living in higher-income households own iPods or other MP3 players, compared with 42 percent of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 54 percent of those living in higher-income households own game consoles, compared with 41 percent of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 12 percent of those living in higher-income households own e-book readers such as Kindles, compared with 3 percent of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 9 percent of those living in higher-income households own tablet computers such as iPads, compared with 3 percent of those living in less well-off homes.
The results come from three different surveys. The first was a set of telephone interviews conducted between December 28, 2009 and January 19, 2010, among a sample of 2,259 adults, 18 and older. The second was from telephone interviews conducted between April 29 and May 30, 2010, among a sample of 2,252 adults, age 18 and older. The third set of data comes from a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between August 9 and September 13, 2010, administered to a sample of 3,001 adults, ages 18 and older, using a combination of landline and cellular phone numbers.

Really, it is all common sense: more disposable income means more ability to buy these sorts of technology along with broadband. However, this report is likely going to interesting the FCC, which has already addressed some of these points with its National Broadband Plan. It will also be of interest to those supporting Net Neutrality.

The FCC's data, released in 2009, noted that while only nearly 90 percent of households with $100,000 or more in annual income subscribed to broadband service, just 35 percent of homes with incomes of $20,000 or less had broadband access. Meanwhile, in July, Finland became the first country to make broadband a right.

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