Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Washington state near top in U.S. home Internet use

by Matt Rosenberg November 15th, 2011

Washington state is outranked only by New Hampshire and Utah in percentage of households that are connected to the Internet, according to a new report from the U.S. Commerce Department titled, “Exploring The Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use At Home.” Washington also ranked fourth highest among 43 states for which information was available on rural household broadband penetration. Nationally, home Internet penetration in the U.S. – the lion’s share now coming via broadband services such as cable modem and DSL – is up from 19 percent in 1997 to 71 percent in 2010. However, it varies by income, age and race, as well as geography.

Almost 80 percent of Washington homes have Internet
Drawing on the U.S. Census Bureau’s October 2010 Current Population Survey, the report finds 76.7 percent of Washington state’s households are connected to the Internet through broadband services (primarily cable modem and DSL) and another three percent use dial-up, for a total of 79.7 percent wired to the Net. Washington’s household Internet connectivity rate is exceeded only by that of New Hampshire (77.8 percent with broadband plus 3.2 percent with dial-up for a total of 81 percent) and Utah (79.7 percent broadband plus 2.6 percent dial-up, for 82.3 percent).

The same three states also scored lowest in percent of households with no computer: Utah, 13.3 percent; Washington, 13.5 percent; and New Hampshire, 13.9 percent. Looking specifically at rural households with broadband Internet service among 43 states providing that data, Washington’s adoption rate of 68.4 percent was exceeded only by California (72.8 percent), New Hampshire (72.5 percent) and Connecticut (69 percent).

Public Data Ferret Internet archive

The report highlights the increasingly influential presence of the Internet in American life, stating it “has transformed our social and economic environment by providing an important platform for innovation, economic growth and social communication. Residential use of broadband Internet access services has risen dramatically during the past decade, demonstrating that the Internet plays a key role in the everyday lives of many people.”

U.S. home Net penetration up from 19 percent in ‘97 to 71 percent in ‘10
According to the report, 71 percent of U.S. households have Internet service, up from 19 percent in 1997, 50 percent in 2001, and 62 percent in 2007. In 1997, 18 percent more U.S. households had computers than Internet service, now that gap is only six percent. Broadband service now dominates the residential Internet market; it’s how 68 percent of U.S. homes connect. Only three percent of U.S. households used dial-up modem service in 2010, down sharply from 37 percent in 2000.

Nine percent of U.S. households in 2010 had no home Internet access, but still included individuals who accessed it outside of home, bringing to 80 percent the estimated total percentage of U.S. households that had at least one Internet user in 2010, three points higher than in 2009.

Another way households are connecting with the Internet is via mobile devices more often used away from home. Twenty-one percent of households that reported owning a handheld device such as a mobile phone, by itself or in addition to a home computer, used mobile broadband to connect to the Internet from home.

Home Net connection rates varied by income, age and race
There was a direct correlation between household income and home Internet adoption. Among households which earned less than $25,000, just 46 percent had Internet service, versus 69 percent for households earning $25 to to $50,000, 84 percent for the $50,000-$75,000 group, 90 percent for $75,000-$100,000, and 94 percent among households earning $100,000 or more. Age was negatively associated with home Internet access. Among householders 65 years and older, only 49 percent had Internet, versus 75 percent for those 45-64 years old, and 79 percent for those age 16-44. Among major racial groups 83 percent of Asian householders had home Internet versus 75 percent of whites, 59 percent of Hispanics and 57 percent of African-Americans.

Access at public libraries and friends homes popular for underserved
For individuals without broadband Internet at home, public libraries were a markedly more prominent access point on a percentage basis (20 percent) compared to those with dial-up Net access at home (nine percent or broadband (four percent). For those with no broadband at their homes, other people’s homes also loomed relatively large as an access point compared to the two other groups. All three groups used work and school most often as alternative access points.

Mobile Internet penetration also continues to grow
As U.S. household-based Internet penetration continues to rise overall, so does mobile Internet usage. According to the “Mobile Access 2010” report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 59 percent of U.S. adults “now access the Internet wirelessly using a lap top or cell phone,” up from 51 percent in 2009.


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