Deconstructing the Digital Divide: Identifying the Supply and Demand Factors That Drive Internet Subscription Rates

Michael Martin , U.S. Census Bureau

Unequal access to the internet, better known as the digital divide, can be broken down into issues with internet supply (or the availability of broadband connections) and demand (or the rate at which those connections are utilized). This paper examines newly available data sources to highlight the role that these supply and demand factors play in driving gaps in internet subscription rate. Supply factors are captured by the FCC's Form 477 filing, which reports the availability of broadband connections. Demand factors are captured by a number of demographic and structural factors at the county level. These measures are used in models to predict the rate of internet subscription within counties, using newly available 5-year ACS data. Overall, I find that factors of internet supply, demographic and structural demand all play roles in determining county level subscription rates. I close by outlining the implications for approaches to narrow the digital divide.

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 Presented in Session 250. Spatial Inequality in the United States