High-speed internet (often referred to as “broadband”) offers access to an ever-expanding range of online information and resources that can improve quality of life for people of all ages and help older adults live independently. In the age of COVID and social distancing, the need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet is now more important than ever.
The technology, faster and more reliable than antiquated dial-up service, has the potential to reduce the risk of social isolation by facilitating social connections, provide access to important supportive services (including telehealth) that may not be locally available, promote learning by offering access to unlimited information, and help local businesses grow by serving customers outside their geographical area.
Nebraska voters ages 50 and older overwhelmingly agree that elected officials in Nebraska should work to ensure that high-speed internet is available to all Nebraskans regardless of where they live, according to a new AARP survey. Furthermore, the majority of voters support the development of partnerships to bring affordable, high-speed internet to more of Nebraska as well as state action to incentivize internet providers to expand high-speed internet service to unserved rural areas.
The survey also shows widespread use of the internet, including a significant share of voters who report increased home internet use now compared to before the COVID 19 pandemic. However, some voters — especially those in rural areas — report that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community and that quality, cost, and/or availability have limited their home internet use.
Support for Expanding Access to High-Speed Internet
Nearly eight in ten (79%) voters agree that elected officials in Nebraska should work to ensure that high-speed internet is available to all Nebraskans regardless of where they live. In fact, more than seven in ten voters, regardless of political affiliation, feel this way.
More than seven in 10 (73%) voters support the development of partnerships among state and local governments, internet service providers, and local nonprofits and businesses to bring affordable, high-speed internet to more of Nebraska.
Nearly seven in 10 (69%) voters support state action to offer incentives to internet providers to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas that do not currently have access.
Home Internet Use on the Rise
Much of the survey points to widespread reliance on the internet. More than eight in 10 (84%) respondents use the internet, with most (75%) accessing it at least once a day.
In fact, compared to before the COVID 19 pandemic, nearly one in three (31%) home internet users say that their household is now using the internet more at home.
Home internet users have used the internet in a variety of ways during the pandemic to stay connected with others and to address important needs such as paying bills, obtaining healthcare, and working remotely.
- The majority of home internet users have made online purchases (78%), used social media (70%), paid bills online (59%), streamed TV shows or movies (59%), video chatted with friends or family (56%), and attended a live virtual event (51%).
- A full two in three (66%) have used the internet for at least one of the following health-related activities:
- to get health or fitness information (46%),
- to schedule a healthcare appointment or order prescriptions (40%),
- to attend an online healthcare appointment (30%).
- Roughly three in 10 have used the internet to work remotely (32%).
Still, Rural Areas Face More Challenges
One in three (32%) Nebraska voters ages 50+ say that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community, including more than half (53%) of voters in rural areas. Rural internet users are also more likely than nonrural users to say that quality (42% vs. 24%), cost (29% vs. 21%), and/or availability (24% vs. 17%) have limited their use of internet at home some, moderately, or a great deal.
The types of home internet connections reported by rural internet users contrast sharply with the types of connections reported by nonrural users. While 54% of nonrural home internet users have a cable internet connection, just 11% of rural home internet users do. Instead, DSL (28%), satellite (13%), and fixed wireless (13%) are more common among rural home internet users.
More than eight in 10 (86%) home internet users do not report having a fiber optic internet connection — typically the fastest service option — at home. When asked to indicate their major reasons for not having fiber, more than one in three (37%) cite lack of availability as a major reason. Rural internet users without fiber at home are more likely than their nonrural counterparts to cite lack of availability (63% of rural users vs. 26% of nonrural users).
The AARP telephone survey was conducted among 1,292 registered voters ages 50+ in Nebraska. Sixty percent of the respondents were reached on a mobile phone. The survey was administered by Alan Newman Research between April 12, 2021 and April 19, 2021.
Brown, S. Kathi. High-Speed Internet: Views of Nebraska Voters Ages 50+. Washington, DC: AARP Research, August 2021. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00461.001
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