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

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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