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Lack of U.S. Broadband Access Is a Problem for Advertisers… and Everyone Else

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Published: Jun. 16, 2021

As President Biden reminded us when he announced his ambitious infrastructure plan this spring, 35% of rural Americans lack reliable, high-speed Internet access at home, which is why building out broadband infrastructure is a high-profile part of his jobs plan.

But it’s not just rural folks who lack high-speed Internet. As the New York Times reported in early June, the number of urban households without a broadband connection, 13.6 million, is almost three times bigger than the number rural households, 4.6 million, without one.

And according to Pew Research, here’s who also lacks broadband internet at home:

  • More than one-third of Americans over 65 years old
  • More than one-third of Hispanic Americans
  • 40% of those with only a high school diploma
  • 43% of households earning less than $31,000
  • 54% of those with only some high school education
  • In total, over 82 million Americans

We need to get out of our digital bubbles and care about this problem.

For all of us who care about the connected TV world, we need to recognize that none of those 80+ million people can be part of it. They represent a massive part of the consumer economy, but none of them can view streamed video ads for brands like Ford, Kraft, State Farm, Walmart and Pepsi that we’re always reading about in our ad trade publications.

With distance learning and online research now a critical part of our primary and secondary education systems (at least while the pandemic lingers), aren’t we sentencing the children of those without high school degrees, the majority of whom live in homes without broadband access, to a self-perpetuating trap -- without the most important tools they need to be the first in their family to graduate high school, let alone even imagine going to college?

How can we bridge the divides of cultures and race that we have today when the media we each consume for hours and hours each day is becoming so different and so limited by broadband access? Two decades ago, those who were rich, poor, rural or urban, or college-educated or not, all watched the same TV shows, the same sporting events, and the same news on the same networks.

This didn’t solve the world’s problems, but it gave everyone some connection with each other. Now, we need to bridge this divide so that we can all have the same tools, and points of shared understanding and experience to help us solve the many challenges we face as a society and world.

I am very hopeful. We know well the power of the Internet. We need to make sure that all can participate in it.

An earlier version of this blog was originally published by MediaPost.