General

A new report from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society shows that U.S. cities with high poverty saw substantial increases in the percentage of homes with broadband service between 2019 and 2021. The report credits the increases to broadband subsidy programs that cover all or some of the cost of broadband internet service for low-income American households (like the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, now does).

Among the nation’s top 50 most populous cities, Detroit logged the largest jump in broadband adoption, which rose from 53.7% to 65.8% between 2019 and 2021 – a 12.1-point or 22.5% increase. Detroit also has one of the highest percentages of households at or below 125% of the federal poverty level at 37.3%.

Cleveland also saw big increase in broadband adoption, which jumped from 54% to 65.3% — an 11.3-point or 22% increase. Baltimore saw adoption climb from 59.4% to 69.9% — a 10.6-point or 17.8% increase. Both cities have high shares of households at or below the 125% federal poverty level (34.8% and 28.4%, respectively).

Of interest, broadband adoption increased more slowly in all three cities over the previous two-year period between 2017 and 2019. Adoption levels were nearly flat in Baltimore during that period, and even slightly declined in Cleveland and Albuquerque, another city on the list. For reference, the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which provided broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, launched in May of 2021 and was replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program at the beginning of 2022.

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