Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Coming Soon: The Geography of Internet Use

We're soon going to know a whole lot more about the geography of smartphone and Internet use. Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey will provide information on computer ownership by type of computer (desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc.) and Internet subscription by type of connection (DSL, cable, fiber-optic, mobile broadband, etc.) for the nation, states, and smaller geographies such as cities and counties.

While other organizations track computer and smartphone ownership (such as Pew Internet and American Life Project), only the massive American Community Survey can nail the local geography of Internet access. The Census Bureau's Current Population Survey has long asked about computers and the Internet, but the information collected is limited and provided only for the nation and states. According to the latest Current Population Survey report (with data for 2012), 79 percent of households have a computer at home, 75 percent use the Internet at home, and 45 percent of adults have a smartphone. The 2012 data release includes several data tables and an interesting infographic (pdf) showing trends in computer ownership, Internet access, and individual smartphone use.

The Current Population Survey first asked Americans about computer ownership in 1984, when 8 percent of households owned a computer. A question about Internet access was first included in the Current Population Survey in 1997, when 37 percent of households owned a computer and 18 percent had Internet access at home. The much larger American Community Survey will better track not only device ownership, but also the local geography of Internet access.

Source: Census Bureau, Computer and Internet Access in the United States: 2012

No comments: