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New NTIA Report Explores How and Why People Connect to the Internet

June 07, 2013
News Media Contact
Juliana Gruenwald

In a new report released today, Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience, NTIA examines how Americans connect to the Internet and what Americans do once they get online. The report, co-authored with the Economics and Statistics Administration, confirms the dramatic growth in the number of Americans who are going online to perform important tasks like applying for jobs, looking up health information, and learning about current events.

The latest report updates and expands upon NTIA’s Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home released in 2011. The new report, for the first time in eight years, explores how and why Americans go online. It is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2011 Current Population Survey (CPS) Computer and Internet Use Supplement, and includes information collected from 53,500 households.

“The data show that Americans depend on Internet use to engage in a wide range of everyday activities,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “It underscores the need for us to continue our efforts to ensure all Americans have access to broadband.”

While most Americans still used a desktop or laptop computer to go online in 2011, mobile device use grew significantly, with more than a third of Americans reporting that they used their mobile phones to access the Internet. The report also found that almost all users who used the Internet at home did so via a broadband connection.

The July 2011 CPS data collection gathered information on a broad range of online activities. This report focuses primarily on three areas – employment, health, and civic engagement – that are particularly important for society. The CPS data suggest that widespread Internet use benefits society, that mobile devices further increase these benefits, and that the Internet’s great utility leads users to go online regularly and rely on it in their daily lives.

The report also finds that:

  • 34 percent of Internet users ages 25 and older conducted job searches online, and unemployed Internet users were more than twice as likely to use the Internet to look for employment as their employed counterparts.
  • 35 percent used the Internet for research about health plans or providers.
  • 31 percent of Internet users between the ages of 25 and 44 went online when looking for news, compared to only 8 percent of those over the age of 65.

Overall, about seven out of ten households nationally went online at home, with variability based on demographics and geography. And while the percentage of Americans who did not use the Internet declined compared with previous studies, the report finds that the key reasons some Americans chose not to go online included a lack of interest, expense, and insufficient computing equipment.  

Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience can be found online at: