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There is substantial variation in Internet and broadband use at the local level, yet there has been limited data available below the national and state level. The data posted here, developed with support from NSF #1338471, BCC: Innovative Broadband Data, is intended to promote research on broadband and mobile use in communities, including research on inequality, change over time, and the social impacts of Internet use.
The main County, Metro, City, and State datasets present unique subnational data from 1997-2016. This includes time series data for cities, metropolitan areas, counties and states estimated from the U.S. Bureau of the Census Current Population Survey Internet Use Supplement (1997-2012) and estimates by race, ethnicity, age, educational attainment and employment status for these same geographies based on the U.S. Bureau of the Census American Community Survey (2013-2014). Data on mobile Internet use and “fully-connected Internet use” (both mobile and home broadband) is available from 2011 to 2016. This data covers a period of growth for broadband use in the U.S., including federal and private initiatives. Yet, there are major differences across cities, as well as between urban and rural counties, with larger disparities at the local level than is apparent in national data. Time series data show a flattening of growth in recent years, indicating persistent inequalities.
To demonstrate new methods for collecting subnational data on Internet use, the award supported data collection for three “seed grant data” projects also posted here: an index of online activity level for counties and metro areas based on estimates from the 2011 CPS; Spanish language access on local government websites; and police social media use. The online activities demonstrate potential benefits for Internet use as well as disparities in the capacity to use the Internet across places. Improved access to government services is a rationale for e-government, yet Spanish language access is not consistently available, even in local communities where the population of Spanish language use is high. Finally, opportunities for government and citizens to communicate online have evolved with social media, and this study of social media use by police departments in 5 communities explores trends in communications and methods for researching such use.
In addition to the spreadsheets, maps and graphs focused on different levels of geography, we have graphs that highlight national differences for rural, urban, and suburban residents. This helps to aggregate the trends in the subnational data, though there is a wide range of results within these categories as well, as shown on the subsequent pages.
The seed grant data sets each have their own respective codebooks where the data is posted.