After skipping a year, the Census Bureau released its 2021 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates this morning.
For digital equity advocates, the new ACS data contains some very good news. Between 2019 and 2021, the share of households living without home broadband access in many of the nation’s worst-connected cities — including Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Akron — showed significant improvement. The shock of COVID lockdowns, the resulting mobilizations in many communities to help digitally isolated students and workers to get on line, and the emergency discounts offered by some Internet service providers — even before the Emergency Broadband Benefit was launched in mid-2021 — seem to have moved the digital access needle more than many of us expected.
Here’s the 2021 ACS household Internet data (Table B28002) for the city of Cleveland, alongside the comparable numbers from the 2019 ACS. (Click to enlarge.)
23,000 more Cleveland households with some kind of broadband connections in their homes, including 19,000 with cable, fiber or DSL service, is a big step in the direction of universal Internet access in our community — especially since more than 16,000* of these newly connected households had incomes below $35,000. If you’re one of the hundreds of Clevelanders who worked through the depths of the pandemic emergency to help make this happen, congratulations. It worked!
So does this mean Cleveland is no longer the worst-connected big U.S. city? Yes, it does… but just barely.
Among cities with 100,000 or more households, the 2021 ACS data says Cleveland had the second highest percentage of households with no home broadband of any kind (behind Miami at #1) as well as the second highest percentage without cable, fiber or DSL connections (behind Memphis). So instead of the worst-connected city, Cleveland is now just the second-worst.
Of course this is because other cities also saw big increases in home broadband access during the pandemic, just like Cleveland. So though we may have ended up in roughly the same places on the worst-connected list, we’re all significantly better off.
Here’s CYC’s whole 2021 Worst Connected Cities list, with data for all 83 U.S. cities with 100,000 or more households.
*This number has been corrected from “more than 11,000” in the original post. Sorry, author’s math error. The source is Table B28004 of the 2021 and 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates.