In 2019, Cleveland had the highest percentage of households without broadband Internet accounts of any U.S. city with 100,000 or more households, according to data released this morning by the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey (ACS). Almost 53,000 Cleveland households — 31% of the city’s total — lacked broadband subscriptions of any kind at any speed last year, including mobile data plans.
The new ACS data also shows that nearly 79,000 Cleveland households lacked “wireline” broadband connections in 2019 — i.e. cable modem, DSL or fiber Internet service. Cleveland’s 46% wireline non-connection rate was second only to Detroit among the nation’s big cities.
Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis and Newark all ranked among 2019’s five worst-connected big cities in both categories. Clink on the graphic below to see the whole list.
In early March, the FCC released a new round of “Fixed Broadband Deployment Data” based on Internet providers’ reports for June 2019. The agency updated its interactive broadband map with the new information, which includes the “maximum advertised” download and upload speed offered by each provider to at least one residence in each U.S. Census block.
This new FCC deployment data still suffers from all the same problems as earlier releases, including the fact that it systematically overstates the places where higher-speed broadband is actually available.
But there’s another way of looking at that fact: It means that If the FCC map tells us that a provider only offers slow Internet service to homes in a particular Census block (or no service at all), we can be pretty confident that it’s true!
And that brings us to AT&T in Cleveland.
The digital divide isn’t just a problem of big cities and rural townships. There are communities of all sizes throughout Northeast Ohio where more than one in four households has “zero broadband” — i.e., no home broadband subscription of any kind including smartphone access.
The region’s five biggest cities — Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Lorain and Youngstown — are on the list. But so are Ashtabula, East Liverpool, Ravenna, Conneaut, Elyria, Barberton and a dozen other smaller places.
Of course, each of these communities has an even higher percentage of households that lack normal “wireline” connections such as cable Internet, DSL or home fiber.