Millions still not using Internet despite wide U.S. availability

Aug. 19, 2013 at 7:31 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- High-speed broadband is available in 98 percent of the United States, but a fifth of adults still don't use the Internet at home, work or school, figures show.

While the Obama administration dedicated $7 billion to develop and expand broadband access as part of 2009′s massive stimulus package, the number of adults actually using the Web has barely changed, The New York times reported Monday.

That leaves many millions of U.S. residents on the sidelines of an increasingly digitally based economy, the newspaper said.

"The job I'm trying to get now requires me to know how to operate a computer," Elmer Griffin, 70, a retired truck driver from Bessemer, Ala., told the Times.

Griffin recently lost out on a job at an auto-parts store because he was unable to use the computer to check the inventory.

"I wish I knew how, I really do," he said. "People don't even want to talk to you if you don't know how to use the Internet."

Administration officials express concern a significant portion of the population, about 60 million people, is missing out on access to jobs, government services, healthcare and education.

"As more tasks move online, it hollows out the offline options," John B. Horrigan, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told the Times. "A lot of employers don't accept offline job applications. It means if you don't have the Internet, you could be really isolated."

About $500 million of the $7 million stimulus package went toward helping people learn to use the Internet through programs that, although successful, were limited in scale.

"We recognize more work needs to be done to ensure that no Americans are left behind," said John B. Morris Jr., director of Internet policy at the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. "Increasing the level of broadband adoption is a complex, multifaceted challenge with no simple, one-size-fits-all solution."

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