NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

Why Isn’t Everyone Online?

Why Isn’t Everyone Online?

digital divide

55 percent of non-internet users say the reason is they do not have any need for it or have no interest in it

It’s hard to imagine a time before the internet. Before we had near-instant access to limitless information, streaming entertainment, and the ability to connect to people across the globe. Over the last 25 years, the world wide web has expanded to a point of virtual ubiquity. But in spite of ready access and a host of benefits, some people still choose not to go online at home.

Data from the just-released National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) July 2015 Computer and Internet Use Supplement Survey revealed that 33 million households do not use the internet at home (though some are mobile-only homes). 26 million households don’t use the internet at all, mobile, wired, or otherwise. According to NTIA’s survey, the number one reason respondents say they’re not online is they didn’t need or it or had no interest in it. This reason was cited by 55 percent of those without internet. This is up from NTIA’s 2013 survey where 47 percent cited the same reason. Interestingly, price was cited by only 24 percent of respondents, down from 29 percent in 2013. Seven percent say it’s because they don’t have an adequate computer for getting online. A new NTIA survey also revealed that if internet service were offered at a lower price, only 23 percent of the households that do not use the internet at home would purchase it.

This gap between those who use the internet and those who don’t is called the digital divide. NTIA’s data points to an important reality: in order to close this digital divide and encourage families across the country to tap into the transformative benefits of broadband access, we need to define the importance of the internet and empower people to learn to use computers.

There are a number of programs dedicated to closing the digital divide. Many were started and continue to be supported by the internet industry. Perhaps the best know is Comcast Internet Essentials, which offers low-cost broadband services, discounted computers, and perhaps most importantly, digital literacy training in 39 states. A similar program, Connect2Compete is a joint initiative amongst a number of internet providers offering access to discounts and literacy programs. And Cox Technology Centers, in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs, provides internet service, computers, software and digital literacy training across the country as well. Teaching kids early how to take advantage of the internet is key to closing the digital divide.

Internet providers have contributed over $300 million to broadband adoption programs and connected over 750,000 families through efforts aimed at closing the digital divide. And while much of this is dedicated to making the internet more affordable for low-income families, we know the real hurdle to increased internet adoption is knowledge. By helping families connect the dots between using the internet and improved education, job opportunities, health, and connectivity, we can close the digital divide and help overcome many of the barriers millions of families face.