Internet Access Rates Remain Uneven in the U.S.

Recent Census Bureau data show adoption rates of broadband internet throughout the country. This has led to more government services moving online.

For all the talk of e-government, citizens’ access to government at all levels, Federal, state, and local, is becoming increasingly dependent on having internet connections.

As a way to cut costs, directing people towards websites and digital information has been highly successful, but that access that information requires digital access.

Newly released information from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that access to digital information via broadband internet connections is widespread but that counties with higher subscription rates tend to be in or around urban areas, especially those along both coasts.

The  up” — no longer used by most, but still used by less than 1 percent of households nationally.

While cellular data plans using apps can offer some level of access, completing more complicated forms and downloading larger datasets still require use of computers with screens larger than is possible on a cellular telephone.

This places households without broadband internet subscriptions at a marked disadvantage when it comes to accessing educational resources, job hunting, or dealing with more complicated issues.

US map showing density levels of households throughout the country with broadband internet access from 2013 - 2017

According to the Census Bureau news release, higher subscription rates are found throughout the greater Washington, D.C., area, New York, and Seattle, among others.

Focusing on counties with at least 10,000 population (for which statistics are more reliable), Douglas County, Colo., had the highest rate of subscription at 94.6 percent. Loudoun County, Va.; Howard County, Md.; Fairfax City, Va.; Kendall County, Ill.; and Fairfax County, Va., also all have subscription rates of 92 percent or higher.

Counties with lower rates of subscription are prominent throughout the South, especially in the Mississippi River basin, as well as in a number of counties in the Midwest and West.

Telfair County, Ga., has the lowest rate of subscription at 24.9 percent out of counties with populations of 10,000 or more. Holmes County, Miss.; Kemper County, Miss.; Apache County, Ariz.; Monroe County, Ala.; McKinley County, N.M.; and Leflore County, Miss., all also have subscription rates at or below 40 percent.


Since the 2007-2009 recession, state and local government employment has never recovered to the extent of the private sector, while demand for services continues to increase, so it is not surprising that governments have turned to the internet while closing local offices.

About the Author

Michael Wald is a public affairs consultant and writer based in the Atlanta area. He specializes in topics related to government and labor issues. Prior to his retirement from the U.S. Department of Labor, he served as the agency’s Southeast Regional Director of Public Affairs and Southeast Regional Economist.