AARP Utah Report: Nearly 4 in 10 Utah Voters Say Access to High-Speed Internet is a Problem in Their Community

Rural, underserved households lack an affordable, quality connection


According to a new AARP survey of voters ages 50 and older, more than four in 10 (45%) who live in rural areas say access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community, compared to just 37% of nonrural voters. Rural home internet users are more likely than nonrural users to rely on satellite or fixed wireless, or to say that cellular service is their only method of accessing the internet. Roughly four in 10 (39%) home internet users say they have problems with their home internet at least once a month.

While over 90% of survey respondents use the internet, many expressed concerns related to the cost. Nearly seven in 10 (68%) home internet users say that home internet service is expensive. Of those who don't have home internet, three in ten (30%) cite cost as a major reason.  

"Access to high-speed internet during the Covid-19 pandemic meaningfully affected the way that older adults throughout the state accessed medical care, shopped for groceries, completed their work, and connected with their families," said AARP Utah State Director, Alan Ormsby. "However, the pandemic also highlighted the disparities for those without access or those who cannot afford it."

AARP has long advocated for low-cost high-speed internet solutions for older adults and recently supported the new $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program to subsidize broadband service for eligible Americans during the pandemic. The EBB gives a discount of up to $50 a month toward high-speed internet service for eligible households and up to $75 a month for households on Native American tribal lands. Eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if the consumer contributes $10 to $50 toward the purchase price. With the recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the program will be remade this January into the Affordable Connectivity Program along with changes to eligibility and benefits.

The majority of Utah voters ages 50 plus support policies to expand high-speed internet such as building out infrastructure in rural and underserved areas, increasing affordability for people with low incomes, and ensuring all Utahns have free access at public places. Further, the majority of voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who had helped make affordable high-speed internet available to all Utahns, regardless of where they live.

"The internet has become a lifeline to all Americans and access to it has become a public health issue. In Utah, our most vulnerable residents have been the population most in need of this service. It's time that we bridge that digital divide and ensure that older Utahns are adequately prepared in the event of another national crisis," concluded Ormsby.


Jennifer Tarazon

Source: AARP Utah