For many people, it's hard to imagine life without the Internet.
Sure, having web access lets us update our Instagram feeds or look up Oreo cheesecake recipes -- nothing too vital there. But it also lets us file taxes electronically, book flights, check our bank accounts, do homework and participate in popular culture. Futurists have been telling us for years how amazing it’s going to be when the Internet goes even further, too -- when our cars order lattes and our phones tell us when the dryer’s done.
And yet, many people still live without Internet access. Their reasons are varied -- for some, low income makes an Internet bill too much to handle, while others say they wouldn't know how to use the web even if they had access. There's a growing concern that these disconnected individuals are falling further behind economically and socially, creating an ever-wider "digital divide."
As the FCC weighs new rules to keep the Internet free and open, it’s worth considering how many people still aren’t connected. The numbers might surprise you.
The percent of American adults who do not use the Internet -- for any reason -- according to a January 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center. Pew's results over the years show this number has fluctuated. Disconnected respondents increased from 15 to 20 percent between May and September 2013, before dipping to 13 percent in January 2014. This number, however, has steadily declined since 2000, when 52 percent of respondents did not go online.
The number of Americans who still use dial-up Internet as of May 2013, according to a 2013 Pew survey. Typical dial-up speeds make streaming media or video calls difficult, if not impossible.
The percent of black adults who don’t use the Internet, according to the January 2014 Pew survey of Americans.Hispanic adults represented the next most-disconnected group, with 17 percent of respondents saying they don’t use the Internet, followed by 13 percent of white adults.
The number of American adults who use the Internet -- but not in their homes, according to a 2013 Pew survey. This figure suggests a fair number of people use public computers or borrow from friends or family to go online.
The number of American adults who said public libraries' Internet, computers and printers are “very important” to them or their families in a 2013 Pew survey. Past reports have found public libraries are a vital resource for people in low-income areas, and anecdotal evidence suggests public computer labs are still a popular way to get online.
The number of American adults earning less than $30,000 per year who don’t go online. Cost of Internet service, along with reluctance to enter into a contract, are some common hurdles.
The number of low-income Americans who needed to be convinced of the Internet's importance in a 2010 report from the Social Science Research Council on broadband use by low-income individuals. The researchers said they expected some people without web access to say the Internet was "not relevant" to their lives. But none of the respondents felt that way -- including people "with profound histories of marginalization,” such as the homeless, “people recently released from lengthy prison sentences” and even “residents of a rural community without electricity or running water," the researchers noted.
The projected number of American adults who do not have a smartphone, according to a January 2014 Pew survey that found 42 percent of respondents didn't own one. The same survey found that a full 10 percent of American adults don’t have a cell phone of any kind.
The average amount Internet users can save on living costs per year, according to a 2013 report by the Internet Innovation Alliance. By ordering clothes and food online through mass retailers, price comparing home listings and taking care of other expenses digitally, the group said it's possible to save thousands, even when factoring in the cost of broadband.
The average monthly price of broadband service in 2014, according to the nonprofit New America Foundation. A 2013 report from the Office of Science and Technology Policy found that broadband costs have been stagnant or gone up over the last few years, while speeds have remained relatively unchanged.
The percent of teachers who said that “all or almost all” of their students have the digital resources available to complete assignments at home, according to a 2013 Pew survey. A full 84 percent agreed that technology was contributing to disparities between affluent and disadvantaged school systems. Many schools, for example, continue to adopt online systems that allow parents to check their child’s grades at any time -- so long as they have an Internet connection.
The percent of American adults without a high school diploma who have either a smartphone or broadband access, according to a 2013 Pew report. This represents a sharp divide from college-educated Americans -- 93 percent of whom have either a smartphone or broadband access. Some have noted that the digital divide could help fuel education and income disparity in America.