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How bad is internet access equity in L.A. County?

The California Broadband Infrastructure Report Card, which was submitted by internet service providers (ISP) to the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Communications Commission in 2018, gave Los Angeles County a grade of “C” when comparing the primary wireline infrastructure in a region to the California average.

According to a 2020 study by the USC Annenberg School of Communications, nearly 1.5 million K-12 students in Los Angeles County have left in-person classrooms and attend classes virtually. The study also found that about 1 in 4 families with school-age children in Los Angeles County do not have the resources necessary for distance learning and these students are likely to fall behind in education during the pandemic. Many of the families without resources reside in underserved communities, forcing many to take drastic actions to make ends meet.

Though many Californians were able to seamlessly transition to remote working and learning, we were collectively shocked and haunted by the images of elementary school students camped out in front of a Taco Bell in order to access wireless internet to participate in classes just last year. While these issues of inequality were exacerbated by the pandemic, the digital divide between the affluent and underserved communities has been brewing throughout our regions long before the pandemic.

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Family with Tablet

The pandemic has also revealed the importance of the internet as a means to communicate with government agencies and access critical government services and information.

According to the American Community Survey Data for Los Angeles County, approximately 283,000 households do not have internet access.

And according to the USC CETF 2021 survey, released in March 2021, more than 1 in 4 low-income households are unconnected or under-connected, in contrast to near-universal adoption among higher-income households. In fact, 30% of households earning less than $20,000 a year have no internet connection. The CETF survey noted that throughout the past year, as people cut back to save money, many disconnected internet services: 1 in 5 low-income households in the survey that currently have access reported going without internet for extensive periods. Respondents also cited cost as the main reason for disconnecting their service.

Image by Jay Heike

Resources & Links

Pew Research

Infrastructure & Maps

View NTIA's Indicators of Broadband Need Mapping Application

 

View the Interactive California Broadband Map which includes selectable GIS layers.

View geographic data on internet access in the City of Los Angeles via the ArcGIS StoryMap, Improving Digital Equity in Los Angeles: Using Data to Address the Digital Divide.

View Connected Cities and Inclusive Growth, a zoomable map of LA County with details on Residential Broadband Availability, Broadband, and PC Adoption, and the Distance Learning Gap, presented by USC Annenberg School.

REFERENCES