NTIA Press Releases
For Immediate Release
Monday, October 16, 2000
Contact: Morrie Goodman
(202) 482-4883
Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky
(202) 482-0019


WASHINGTON-More Americans than ever have Internet access and own computers, according to a government report released today by Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. The report found that progress is being made toward the Administration's goal of making certain every American has access to the information-age tools necessary to take part in the digital economy.

President Clinton released the following statement on the release of the report:

"I am pleased by a new report released today by the Commerce Department, documenting a sharp increase in the number of Americans that have access to computers and the Internet. Although much more remains to be done to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity for all Americans, I am especially pleased that many low-income, rural and minority households are beginning to 'get connected' at rates faster than the national average.

Access to these Information Age tools is becoming critical to full participation in America's economic, political and social life. Americans are using the Internet to vote, look for work, acquire new skills, and communicate with their children's teachers. To ensure that we continue to make progress in bridging the digital divide, I urge Congress to fund the initiatives that I have proposed in my budget. These include my proposals to fully fund Community Technology Centers, Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, assistive technology for people with disabilities, and the Commerce Department's Home Internet Access and Technology Opportunity Program."

Secretary Mineta said, "The Internet is becoming a vital tool in our daily lives, from international business transactions to keeping in touch with family members. Each year, being connected becomes more critical to economic and educational advancement and to community participation."

"That's why it is so important to move as quickly as we can toward digital inclusion," Secretary Mineta continued. "This is a vital national goal. This report shows that our progress is promising, but it also shows that we still have a lot of work to do. More Americans are accessing computers and the Internet, and are doing so at dramatic rates of growth. Although gaps still remain between some segments of our society, computers and the Internet are becoming more the norm than the exception."

The report, Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion (.pdf file), produced by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and its Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), found that virtually every group has participated in the sharp upward trend of Americans to connect their homes to the Internet, suggesting that the digital divide may be starting to narrow. The latest report is the Department's fourth in a series that measures the gap between Americans with access to information technologies and those without access.

The report released today for the first time provides data on high-speed Internet access as well as data on the connectivity of people with disabilities. The department said it measured the level of digital inclusion by looking at households and individuals with Internet and computer access.

"I am pleased to report that the geographical aspect of what had been a digital divide has virtually disappeared," Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA administrator, said. "Rural areas, once left behind, are catching up quickly with other parts of the country and have surpassed some of the central cities in their Internet use."

"The data show that the overall level of U.S. digital inclusion is rapidly increasing," the report said. As evidence of the rapid rise in the level of digital inclusion, the report cited :

  • an increase in the share of households with Internet access, rising from 26.2 percent in December 1998 to 41.5 percent in August 2000, an increase of 58 percent;
  • a rise in the number of households with access to computers, up from 42.1 percent in December 1998 to 51 percent this year, a rise of 21 percent;
  • a 31.9 million increase in the number of Americans online over the previous 20 months, to 116.5 million;
  • a hike in the number of Americans using the Internet, from 32.7 percent online in December 1998 to 44% percent in August 2000;
  • The disparity in Internet usage between men and women has disappeared.

"This report shows that, while income and education still explain much of the difference in Internet access and use, the biggest gains recently are among those with average incomes and education levels," said Robert J. Shapiro, under secretary of commerce and administrator of the Economics and Statistics Administration.

While Internet access and computer ownership have risen for almost all groups, noticeable divides exist between those with different income and education levels, different racial and ethnic groups, old and young, single and dual- parent families and those with and without disabilities, the report said. For example, it said, persons with disabilities are only half as likely to have access to the Internet as those without a disability. Large gaps also remain between Internet access rates for Blacks and Hispanics when measured against the national average of Internet penetration, it said.

"The Internet is no longer a luxury item, but a resource used by many," the report said. "Taken as a whole, the findings show that there has been tremendous progress (in closing the nation's technology gap), but much work remains to be done," the report said.

Note: The report can be accessed by visiting the Commerce Department web site, www.doc.gov, the NTIA web site at www.ntia.doc.gov , or the ESA web site, www.esa.doc.gov. Printed copies will be available for credentialed media only in the lobby of the U.S. Commerce Department building at 1401 Constitution Ave., NW, between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The report is under embargo until 1 p.m. EDT.