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Economy

Broadband Is Largely Inaccessible to Those Who Need it Most

Because of high prices and low accessibility, poor and rural communities are the least likely to subscribe to high-speed internet.
The broadband divide could leave some kids behind.
The broadband divide could leave some kids behind.Jon Nazca/Reuters

The internet is a way for people in poorer or far-flung communities to connect with social programs and educational opportunities, such as employment and health services, to which they might not otherwise have access. But according to a new report from the Brookings Institution, residents in low-income or rural neighborhoods are the least likely to have broadband subscriptions.

The current standard for broadband in the U.S. is internet with a 25 Mbps (Megabits per second) download speed. Though Netflix says it needs only 5 Mbps to stream video, the 25 Mbps threshold is intended to satisfy the different needs—high-quality downloads, video communication—and multiple demands of a single household’s network. The richer and more educated a neighborhood is, the Brookings report says, the more likely its residents are to have internet that reaches that threshold. While 73 percent of Americans have broadband service in their homes, college graduates are three times more likely to have the subscription than high-school graduates.