According to a study (PDF) from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), around 30 percent of US citizens do not use the internet for anything, whether they’re at work or at home. Given that there are 304 million people in the United States, that’s about 91.2 million people who still don’t even use email.
The scariest thing about this report is that in this group of around 91 million people, 37.8% say they just don’t need broadband internet connections. As Ars Technica points out, the United States almost requires a decent internet connection for someone to do well; the vast majority of applying to get a job or to get into college is done online.
What’s perhaps more telling is that the next biggest reason for not having broadband is that it’s too expensive. This is a problem that the federal government, most notably the FCC, has been working hard against, most recently with the announcement that it would try to provide 100 million households with 100 Mbps ‘net connections.
Part of why this study is so troubling is because the internet in a lot of ways is supposed to be an equalizer. Rather than having to spend hours doing arduous research, people can simply go online and find the information they need. It’s very hard to lie to someone when the person in question can simply jump on Wikipedia and verify what you told them.
But even more to the point, in this day and age, not having internet access is almost like being illiterate. There is just so much of the world that is off limit without the ability to get online. So the fact that the majority of people who aren’t online in the US see their lack of an internet connection as not important is somewhat scary.