Pew Does Its Homework: Broadband Gap Remains

The good news is that the majority of American homes with school-age children (82.5%) have broadband access. The bad news: Some 5 million households with those kids don't have access, and black and Hispanic households make up a disproportionate share of those.

That is according to Pew Research Center analysis of 2013 census data, looking at the so-called broadband "homework gap."

Among low-income families (below $50,000), almost a third (31.4%) don't have a high-speed connection at home.

By contrast, only 8.4% of households with incomes over $50,000 don't have a broadband connection at home.

Lower income black and Hispanic households with school-aged kids trail white households with kids by 10 percentage points in terms of access, while Asian Americans outperform other groups in adoption regardless of income. Pew points out that Asian Americans have the highest education levels of any racial group.

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has made closing that broadband homework gap a priority issue, weighed in on the Pew analysis.

“I am pleased that the Pew Research Center has done the math and drawn attention to what I call the ‘Homework Gap.'" she said.

"Today, 7 in 10 teachers assign homework that requires Internet access.  Kids may be connected in the classroom, but if they are disconnected at home getting basic schoolwork done is hard.  Researching a paper and applying for scholarships and jobs is tough without reliable broadband access.  But as the Pew Research Center demonstrates, five million American families with students at home go without regular broadband access –and fall into the Homework Gap.  This is the cruelest part of the new digital divide.  We need to bridge this gap and fix this problem because our shared economic future depends on it.”

Among those trying to close that homework gap is Comcast, whose Internet Essentials program provides low-cost broadband to low-income families with school-age kids.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.