August 19, 2013
Millions Of Americans Still Not Connected To The Internet
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Around 20 percent of American adults are unable to read this article because they still don’t use the Internet at home, work or school. While nearly 98 percent of American homes now have access to some form of high-speed broadband, the New York Times reported on Monday that there are still tens of millions of people who are in essence being left behind.
This comes as the Obama administration has spent billions of dollars expanding the reach of the Internet. While these programs have seen an increase from less than 90 percent of homes having broadband access to 98 percent of homes having access, not everyone is taking advantage of it.
In fact 20 percent of American adults still don’t use the Internet, a figure that has remained unchanged since Barrack Obama took office in 2009, and after a $7 billion effort to expand access.
One of the biggest factors is that many older Americans have never owned a computer or even a smartphone. Many of these older people are simply not computer literate.
This lack of computer understanding is making it difficult for older people to find jobs and even remain in the workforce.
The New York Times noted that one man, 70-year-old Elmer Griffin, was rejected from a job at an auto-parts store because he was unable to use the computer to track inventory.
“People don’t even want to talk to you if you don’t know how to use the Internet,” Griffin told the paper.
The price of Internet access is another factor, and this so-called digital inequality, which is reportedly caused by the inability to afford Internet service, is deepening racial and economic disparities in the United States. Internet use is lowest in the South, especially in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.
“As more tasks move online, it hollows out the offline options,” said John B. Horrigan, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “A lot of employers don’t accept offline job applications. It means if you don’t have the Internet, you could be really isolated.”
While efforts are being made to try to level the playing field, progress is uneven. While most U.S. libraries now offer free Internet access, there are typically a limited number of computers available to access.
The good news is that the percentage of people 18 years and older in the United States who have adopted the Internet has continued to rise over the past two decades, although the growth has slowed in recent years.
According to a study conducted by Pew Internet and America Life Project, researchers found that between 81 and 85 percent of American adults use the Internet.
However, even at that level of Internet adoption, according to the UN's International Telecommunication Union, the United States only ranked seventh amongst 20 major global economies in 2012, down from fourth in 2000. Ranking ahead of the United States were Britain, Canada, South Korea, Germany, France and Australia.
To help break this digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and some Internet providers, as well as cable companies, have now started programs to make Internet service more affordable for low-income homes.