These 25 Cities Are the Most Impacted By the Digital Divide

These 25 Cities Are the Most Impacted By the Digital Divide

Written by December 5, 2020 | Published: December 14, 2015

If you think the digital divide is shrinking, don’t mention it to residents of Miami, Kansas City, or Buffalo — all cities listed on a recent NDIA report identifying the worst-connected cities nationwide.

While politicians and ISPs have been tussling over how to close the digital divide for years, few cities have seen any improvement. The lack of affordable internet access remains a stark reality for millions of Americans.

It’s not low connection rates that are troubling so much as the disparity between the haves and the have-nots in these cities. In the worst-connected city of Brownsville, TX, a little under half of households don’t have internet access; that’s for all income levels. For those households with incomes below $35,000 per year, the numbers are even worse, to the tune of 67.5%.

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While it didn’t make the list below, even tech capital San Francisco showed a huge gap in percentages of connected homes: 44.8 percent of households with incomes below $35,000 per year were disconnected, compared to 14.5% overall. You can even see the same rend in other regional hubs, such as New York.

In a time when internet access is crucial for economic opportunity and education, it is vitally important that the broadband market becomes more competitive. The digital divide must be closed, or the whole economy will suffer as the rest of the connected world passes us by.

Said NDIA Director Angela Siefer, “We point out the starkly reduced connectivity levels of our poorest neighbors in order to clarify the fact that poverty is a factor we cannot ignore in our work to reduce the digital divide.”

We’ve compiled the 25 cities most impacted below; the results may surprise you.

NDIA, Households without home Internet access
City Total households Households without Internet access Percent
Brownsville, Texas 50,340 22,574 44.8%
Detroit, Michigan 253,490 95,825 37.8%
Jackson, Mississippi 62,679 22,791 36.4%
Laredo, Texas 66,985 24,300 36.3%
Hialeah, Florida 68,027 24,476 36.0%
New Orleans, Louisiana 152,788 52,693 34.5%
Miami, Florida 158,039 54,196 34.3%
Kansas City, Kansas 55,680 18,971 34.1%
Cleveland, Ohio 165,984 55,619 33.5%
Mobile, Alabama 75,594 24,455 32.4%
Memphis, Tennessee 250,553 80,313 32.1%
Springfield, Massachusetts 55,816 17,733 31.8%
Rochester, New York 83,944 26,487 31.6%
Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia 69,436 21,678 31.2%
Birmingham, Alabama 88,556 27,498 31.1%
Macon-Bibb County, Georgia 56,052 17,332 30.9%
Buffalo, New York 110,070 33,848 30.8%
Shreveport, Louisiana 74,512 22,655 30.4%
El Paso, Texas 218,127 65,955 30.2%
Dallas, Texas 484,335 144,670 29.9%
Dayton, Ohio 56,251 16,616 29.5%
St. Louis, Missouri 137,784 40,200 29.2%
Syracuse, New York 54,712 15,942 29.1%
Cincinnati, Ohio 137,197 39,908 29.1%
Providence, Rhode Island 62,020 17,797 28.7%
NDIA, Low-income households without home Internet access
City Total households with incomes below $35,000 Households without Internet subscriptions Percent
Brownsville, Texas 26,363 17,797 67.5%
Detroit, Michigan 155,264 97,411 62.7%
Jackson, Mississippi 31,941 18,190 56.9%
Laredo, Texas 30,305 19,722 65.1%
Hialeah, Florida 38,426 20,516 53.4%
New Orleans, Louisiana 75,665 46,547 61.5%
Miami, Florida 82,950 45,313 54.6%
Kansas City, Kansas 27,136 15,101 55.6%
Cleveland, Ohio 103,318 54,883 53.1%
Mobile, Alabama 35,952 18,563 51.6%
Memphis, Tennessee 126,057 75,062 59.5%
Springfield, Massachusetts 28,747 15,186 52.8%
Rochester, New York 48,382 23,531 48.6%
Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia 33,768 16,983 50.3%
Birmingham, Alabama 49,490 26,977 54.5%
Macon-Bibb County, Georgia 27,716 15,319 55.3%
Buffalo, New York 58,334 32,523 55.8%
Shreveport, Louisiana 35,292 18,018 51.1%
El Paso, Texas 93,641 51,897 55.4%
Dallas, Texas 198,851 107,297 54.0%
Dayton, Ohio 33,363 15,626 46.8%
St. Louis, Missouri 67,513 35,296 52.3%
Syracuse, New York 29,304 13,838 47.2%
Cincinnati, Ohio 71,548 35,277 49.3%
Providence, Rhode Island 28,349 14,648 51.7%

 

Local Internet Choice

“Today, high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

—Barack Obama

Whether the solution is a more competitive marketplace, municipal broadband, or some combination of the two, statistics like these highlight the dangers posed to the US economy by the digital divide.

Fixed_Wireless_Antenna
Image Source: Techmoran

High-speed Internet isn’t a question of streaming entertainment, but a question of delivering equal access to education, employment, and entrepreneurship to those who need it most. Research suggests that broadband access boosts job growth and local economies, as well as improving both enrollment numbers and grade averages among students.

Government programs like ConnectED have done great work combatting these issues, but the road ahead is long — and those trapped on the other side of the digital divide may have a long wait ahead of them if corporate interests trump community needs in the coming years.

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