Home Internet Access in US: Still Room for Growth

March 11, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Hispanic

More than 80% of Americans now have a computer in their homes, and of those, almost 92% have internet access, according to a detailed study on home internet access from The Nielsen Company, which reports that this number is up from 77.9%? one year earlier.

Though the percentage of people with computers and who are connected to the internet continues to rise, many demographic groups remain underrepresented, creating additional room for growth, Nielsen said.

The study, “An Overview of Home Internet Access in the US,””(pdf) provides a detailed look at how Americans are getting on the internet and the differences by various demographic breaks.

Key findings from the report:

  • Internet access is correlated with education level and a household’s combined annual income. As these factors increase, so does the likelihood of internet access.


  • Internet access is lowest in Hispanic and African-American households, as well as those where the head of household has not completed high school.
  • Access is much lower in rural areas and in homes that receive only broadcast TV.
  • Those using dial-up service tend be older, with more modest incomes and lower education levels than those using high-speed internet.


  • The East South Central region (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky), had the highest number of households with no internet access – 26%.
  • The top five markets with the highest percentage of homes with internet access are Washington, DC, Norfolk, Salt Lake City, Boston and Portland, OR.
  • The five markets with the lowest percentages are Knoxville, Greenville, Albuquerque, Memphis and Tulsa.

“Our findings indicate that there remains opportunity for growth in internet access in the US. Indeed, President Obama stated during the campaign that we had to view broadband internet access the same way we did telephone service and electricity – an essential utility available to all regardless of economic status,” said Steve McGowan, SVP of insights and client research initiatives at Nielsen. “But part of the challenge in extending web access to all Americans is the fact that there are more homes without computers, than there are homes with computers but lacking internet access.”

About the research: This Nielsen report on home internet access aggregates data from several different sources including Nielsen’s national and local television panels, the quarterly Home Technology phone survey (through 3rd quarter, 2008), and the Nielsen Claritas 2008 Convergence Audit survey, which is a combination of internet and mail respondents.

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