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Cost a Major Barrier to High-Speed Internet Access for NY’s Blacks & Hispanics: Survey

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41% of Hispanic/Latinos, 29% of African American/Blacks Cite Cost as Significant Hurdle vs. 21% of Whites, NYS 35+ Voter Survey Shows

EN ESPAÑOL | ALBANY, N.Y.— Cost is a major barrier to fiber optic high-speed internet – generally the fastest type of connection - for a larger share of Hispanic/Latinos and African American/Blacks than for Whites in the Empire State, an AARP New York statewide survey of voters 35 and older shows.

Among respondents who lack fiber optic at home, 41% of Hispanic/Latinos and 29% of African American/Blacks cite cost as a major reason, vs. 21% of non-Hispanic Whites. And cost is the number one “main” reason for not having fiber among Hispanics, the survey found.

That aspect of the digital divide is particularly troubling because Hispanic/Latino and African American/Black voters are especially likely to be using home internet more than before the pandemic compared with White voters, the survey found.

Over half of both Black (54%) and Hispanic (57%) voters, compared with 45% of Whites, said their household’s home internet usage has increased since the same time last year.

Unsurprisingly, the survey oversample of 405 Hispanic/Latinos and 403 African American/Blacks showed those groups are more likely than Whites to support candidates who had helped to expand high-speed internet access throughout the state (79% of Blacks and 78% of Hispanics vs. 71% of Whites), and to think it’s “very” important for the Governor and state legislature to take action (76% of Blacks, 71% of Hispanics vs. 62% of Whites).

The state Legislature this year passed S8805/A6679, requiring a statewide study of high-speed internet accessibility and affordability. AARP and over 20 other organizations are urging Governor Cuomo to sign the bill once it reaches his desk.

“COVID-19 has hit New Yorkers of color the hardest, and accessibility to affordable high-speed internet - a growing necessity for all New Yorkers during the pandemic – is no exception,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Governor Cuomo and the legislature have taken some big steps toward ensuring more New Yorkers have access to the internet. Enacting legislation to require a thorough statewide analysis would mark another major move to disrupt the digital divide, which is hitting communities of color particularly hard.”

The bill requires the State Public Service Commission to undertake the analysis; the Governor will have 10 days excluding Sundays to act on the bill once it reaches his desk. The bill must be sent to the Governor by the end of the year. 

Existing internet connections in underserved communities are likely slow and expensive.

Other specific survey findings:

  • About three in 10 Hispanic internet users say their home internet use during the past year has been limited a “great deal” or “moderately” by quality (32%), cost (30%), or availability (31%); that goes for about one in four Black internet users (quality -27%, cost -25%, or availability - 27%).
  • Among Black internet users who use the internet at home, roughly three in four (75%) say that they do not have a fiber optic home internet connection, which is generally the fastest type of internet service. When asked to indicate their “major” reasons for not having fiber, roughly three in ten cite lack of availability (31%) or cost (29%) as a “major” reason.
  • Among Hispanic internet users who use the internet at home, roughly seven in ten (69%) say that they do not have a fiber optic home internet connection, which is generally the fastest type of internet service. When asked to indicate their “major” reasons for not having fiber, roughly four in ten (41%) cite cost as a “major” reason, while roughly one in four (27%) cite lack of availability.

Besides fiber optic, high-speed internet service includes cable, DSL, satellite, fixed wireless, and mobile data plans. Companies that provide these high-speed services include Spectrum, Verizon, Optimum, Earthlink, Frontier, RCN, New Visions, Xfinity, AT&T, CenturyLink, Kinetic, HughestNet, Viasat; T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless Rise Broadband, Starry Internet,  Barrier Free, Mid-Hudson, Transwave, Fishers Island, and Global Net.

The oversample of Black and Hispanic voters was part of an overall statewide survey of 749 registered voters conducted in September and October. The margin of error for both oversamples is + or - 4.9%.

Contact: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org

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About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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