Why it is important
Access to computers and high-speed Internet connections has never been more important. We use computers and the internet to do research as consumers and for entertainment, but also for critical daily tasks such as schoolwork, finding jobs, and accessing healthcare information. Just as our Internet activities have increased, so too have the number of ways that we use digital technology. Although many American households still have desktop computers with wired Internet connections, many others also have laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices that connect people to the Internet using wireless modems and fixed wireless internet networks, often with mobile broadband data plans.
Dakota County uses these statistics to measure and monitor the countywide development of broadband networks and to consider changes in how services are provided. Understanding how people in specific cities and towns use computers, mobile devices, and the Internet will help businesses and nonprofits better serve their communities.
About this measure
As part of the federal 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act, the U.S. Census Bureau began asking about computer and internet use in the 2013 American Community Survey. As a result, no trend data is available this year, but will be available in years to come.
What the data show
As reliance on the Internet has grown, the number and complexity of devices in households can be tied to a household’s income. But an interesting parallel finding is that even low-income households have access to the Internet with smartphones – a monthly expense (for the service plan) that has become almost as important to their quality of life as other necessities such as clothing, food, housing, health care, and transportation, according to observations by economists and social service providers. For many people on the low end of the income scale, the data show that handheld smart phones (mobile devices) – with their continuous access to the internet – function like a desktop, laptop or tablet computer does for people with greater income.1
Survey results show between one and three percent of the households with a subscription to an Internet provider, subscribed to fiber-optics Internet, which provides a much faster Internet connection. It is expected that the percent of households with Internet subscriptions using fiber-optics will increase in the future as local governments and service providers invest in developing fiber networks.
This chart shows the level of broadband Internet subscriptions2 by household income in Dakota County in 2013. There is a correlation between increasing household income and increasing access to the Internet. About 95% of households in Dakota County with incomes of $75,000 or more subscribed to Internet services in 2013. Note that a small percent of households at all income levels still subscribed to dial-up Internet service.
This chart shows the level of broadband Internet subscriptions (for households that have at least one computer) across the seven metropolitan counties in 2013. In these counties, a majority of households with a computer have subscribed to Internet services. However, about 10 percent of households access the Internet without a subscription or without paying for a subscription for Internet access. This may mean that those people access free wireless internet via school, work or coffee shops.
The percentages may not add up to 100%, because the small percent of households that subscribe to dial-up Internet are not included on this graph.
1 American Community Survey Report: Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013 http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/acs/acs-28.pdf
2 A broadband internet subscription refers to those who indicated that they have DSL, cable, fiber optic, mobile broadband (for a tablet or smart phone), satellite, or fixed wireless subscription.