In December 2016, the Free Press released the extensive report Digital Denied: The Impact of Systemic Racial Discrimination on Home-Internet Adoption. In the 225-page document, Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner dove into the numbers on race and the digital divide
The report provides a qualitative analysis of the digital divide's disproportionate impact people of color. Turner provides a number of policy solutions addressing both home Internet access and mobile Internet access.
Home Internet Adoption: A Continuing Divide
The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to information technologies and those who do not. Analyzing both U.S. Census Bureau data and FCC deployment data, Turner found that:
While 81 percent of Whites and 83 percent of Asians have home internet (counting wired and wireless subscriptions alike as “home” access), only 70 percent of Hispanics, 68 percent of Blacks, 72 percent of American Indian/Alaska Natives, and 68 percent of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders are connected at home.
Even after accounting for differences in income, education, age, geography, and job status, communities of color have not adopted high-speed Internet services at the same rate as White folks. There remained a gap of six to eight percent between Hispanic, Black, or Native American households and White households.
Mobile-Internet Adoption: Model for Possible Solutions
Turner, however, noted that mobile Internet adoption did not sustain this same rate of digital divide. In some cases, low-income households of color have equal or higher levels of adoption than low-income White households. Explaining the difference between the adoption rates for home Internet service and mobile Internet service, Turner credited the wireless marketplace’s competitive prices and the prepaid or resold services offered.
The report points to three policy goals that are further broken into several concrete actions that local, state, and federal officials can take. These three goals are:
“Correct the wired home-internet market failure: Foster the creation of resold and prepaid wired home Internet services and stop market-power abuses.
Correct the wired home-Internet market failure: Where possible, encourage new fiber-optic services and overbuilding, while ensuring the benefits of new deployment are available to more than people living in wealthy areas.
Close the functionality gap between wired and wireless home-Internet services by promoting greater competition as the wireless market evolves to higher-capacity fifth-generation technologies.”