Reaching the Unconnected: Benefits for kids and schoolwork drive broadband subscriptions, but digital skills training opens doors to household internet use for jobs and learning
Not so long ago, “closing the digital divide” primarily meant getting people online, and a steady upward trend in adoption is evidence of progress on that front. Yet gaps in broadband adoption remain – particularly for low-income households – and closing those gaps is about more than simply offering a low-cost internet service. Even with the availability of low-cost offers, it remains a challenge to encourage the remaining disconnected people to sign up for broadband service. And we still have limited understanding of how newly connected low-income people use the internet and how it affects their lives. This research project addresses these concerns. Using an original survey of participants in Internet Essentials (IE), the low-income broadband program operated by Comcast, it identifies why certain formerly unconnected low-income households subscribed and examines the effects of being digitally included. The survey and analysis of its data yield several key high-level findings:
- IE households are more likely than households in the control group to focus on the benefits of broadband to their children. Among respondents in each group with school-age children at home, 71% of IE households say someone in the home uses the internet for schoolwork, compared with 51% of the control group.
- IE households are more interested in obtaining additional training on using the internet than are respondents from control households that use the internet: 52% of IE respondents are interested in training to improve workforce skills, compared with 37% for control group respondents.
- Controlling for a propensity to engage in offline activities such as volunteering in their community or attending community meetings, the 35% of IE respondents who have had formal computer or internet training are more likely to engage in a variety of online activities.
- Most IE users see home broadband access as a valuable way to save time on day-to-day activities and as a tool to help manage their family’s schedules.
Reaching the Unconnected