Digital Gap Between Rural and Nonrural America Persists

Digital Gap Between Rural and Nonrural America Persists

Rural Americans are less likely to own home broadband or a smartphone than suburban or urban Americans. This low percentage of adoption may be partly due to a lack of sufficient infrastructure to support high-speed internet.

Key findings

"Roughly two-thirds of rural Americans (63%) say they have a broadband internet connection at home, up from about a third (35%) in 2007, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2019. Rural Americans are now 12 percentage points less likely than Americans overall to have home broadband; in 2007, there was a 16-point gap between rural Americans (35%) and all U.S. adults (51%) on this question."

"In a separate survey the Center conducted in 2018, adults who live in rural areas were more likely to say that getting access to high-speed internet is a major problem in their local community: 24% say this, compared with 13% of urban adults and 9% of rural adults. In contrast, a majority of adults say that high-speed internet is not a major problem in their local community. Similar rates of concern about access to high-speed internet are shared by rural adults in both lower- and higher-income households, as well as by those with various levels of educational attainment."

"These comparably low levels of adoption among rural residents may be due to a unique feature of rural life. Even though rural areas are more wired today than in the past, other research shows that substantial segments of rural America still lack the infrastructure needed for high-speed internet, and what access these areas do have tends to be slower than that of nonrural areas. The Federal Communications Commission is on Phase II of its Connect America Fund, a plan to expand broadband access and mobile coverage for rural communities in the U.S."

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