Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A New Divide a New Survey Finds Broader American Access to the Internet, but the Choice of Device Determines Digital Literacy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A New Divide a New Survey Finds Broader American Access to the Internet, but the Choice of Device Determines Digital Literacy

Article excerpt

While smartphones are bringing the Internet into the hands of people who otherwise would lack high-speed Internet access, experts question whether that is effectively closing the digital divide.

"We don't believe it really closes the digital divide in a meaningful enough way. There are so many essential things that people can't do on smartphones that they need a home computer for," said Stephanie Chen, energy and telecommunications policy director for Berkeley, Calif.-based racial justice policy and advocacy organization Greenlining Institute.

Still current research shows big gains in access to the Internet.

According to Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, as of May approximately 70 percent of adults 18 and older have a high-speed broadband Internet connection at home, up from 66 percent in April 2012.

A demographic breakdown of those users shows that income, education and age remain the strongest deciding factors: 80 percent of survey participants ages 18-29 had home broadband compared to 43 percent of those 65 and older.

Eighty-nine percent of college graduates surveyed had home broadband service compared to 37 percent of those without a high school diploma. And while more than half (54 percent) of participants making less than $30,000 per year had broadband at home, 88 percent of those making $75,000 or more were using the service.

For smartphone users, the figures were a little less straightforward.

The survey found 56 percent of American adults use a smartphone of some kind, with 46 percent having both a smartphone and broadband Internet at home. Twenty-four percent were found to have home broadband but no smartphone, while 10 percent have a smartphone but no home broadband.

A solid 20 percent of respondents said they didn't have either connection.

Although Pew acknowledges that it does not count smartphone users as broadband users -- due to concerns surrounding connectivity, speed and ability to conduct tasks such as updating resumes or viewing educational material -- it says that counting smartphone users as broadband users would bring the national broadband adoption total to 80 percent.

The change also would put high numbers of black and Latino American smartphone users on par with broadband users. A Pew survey from July notes that 44 percent of black and Latino adults own smartphones, compared to 30 percent of whites, a difference that the Internet and American Life survey says levels the playing field for all. …

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