Poll reveals racial gap in California broadband access

More Californians are gaining access to broadband internet, but black and Hispanic households continue to lag behind their white counterparts, according to an analysis of the latest available American Community Survey data.

The California Public Policy Institute, which recently released the results, noted that the US Census Bureau survey paints a picture of expanding but uneven access to high-speed internet in the state at a time when reliable internet service has become a necessity for telecommuting. and school.

The data comes from the 2020 American Community Survey, which the institute says was limited by “substantial non-response bias” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We present these ACS findings with caution and do not make direct comparisons with previous years,” the institute wrote.

According to these “experimental data”, in 2020, 85% of California households had high-speed Internet access, and 94% had any Internet access, including mobile phone data plans.

Eighty-seven percent of white households had access to high-speed Internet, compared to 83 percent of black households and 80 percent of Hispanics.

Divisions were not only between racial groups; households headed by adults aged 65 and over or not having completed college lagged behind younger households and households with college degrees. Similarly, households with annual incomes below $50,000 were less likely to access broadband than wealthier households.

In addition, 15% of Black and Hispanic households and 23% of low-income households reported that they did not have a laptop, desktop computer, or “other computing device” at home.

“Remarkably, 5% of households with school-age children did not have home access to a device,” the institute writes.

The access gap is seen in miniature in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where about 20% of students – about 90,000 children out of 450,000 – Completely lacking access to broadband or lacking sufficient bandwidth to meet academic requirements.

Some students reported that remote learning, in addition to several other Internet users connecting at the same time, resulted in crashes and outages.

Last month, the county announced a $50 million initiative to offer Internet access to families who may be struggling to pay.

In addition, the institute noted, the FCC estimates that 3.7 million households are eligible for federal programs that provide a discount or subsidy for broadband access, but only 1.4 million have signed up.

“However, these programs have helped increase access to digital technologies,” the institute writes.