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Households with high-speed Internet increase in Vermont, but broadband still not available to all, and digital divides remain.
- By william sawyer
The proportion of Vermont households with high-speed or broadband Internet connections has steadily increased from 9% in 2001 to nearly 69% in 2010, according to the statewide Vermonter Poll conducted by the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont. Overall, just under 79% of Vermont households report that they have a broadband connection or that they know that it is available to them. "Even though the State of Vermont has yet to reach its goal of 100% broadband availability for Vermont households by 2010, it is heartening to see that our rate of household broadband connectivity is higher than the national number of 63.5% released by the U.S. NTIA in February," says Jane Kolodinsky, Director of the UVM Center for Rural Studies (CRS). CRS released its report on household computer and Internet data from the 2010 Vermonter Poll today on its website at uvm.edu/crs. The report shows that, despite the overall increase in household broadband, there is still evidence of a digital divide. According to this year's poll, 57% of responding households making less than $25,000 a year have computers, compared to 90% of households making more than $25,000. Households making less than $25,000 that do have computers are also slightly less likely to have Internet than those households making more. While a majority of all Vermont households have a high-speed Internet connection, only 37% of households making less than $25,000 have broadband. Traditionally there has also been a rural divide in high-speed Internet. While the differences are slight, they still exist. According to the poll, 82% of rural households with Internet connections have broadband versus 92% of urban or 93% of suburban households. Rural households are also less likely to have broadband available to them (77%) than urban and suburban households (both 83%). Overall nearly 81% of polled Vermont households have an Internet connection. Of connected households, 15% have dial-up, 27% have a cable modem, 43% have DSL, 6% have satellite Internet, 6% have wireless Internet service, and 3% have fiber-optic or some other service. Due to the inability to test speeds directly, the Vermonter Poll determined any connection type other than dial-up to be broadband. The US FCC defines broadband as an Internet connection with an upstream and/or downstream data transmission speed of 768 kilobits per second. The Vermonter Poll is a statistically representative, statewide telephone poll conducted annually by the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont. Responses are limited to Vermont households with land-line telephones . A random sample for the poll was drawn from a list of Vermont telephone numbers, which is updated quarterly and includes listed and unlisted telephone numbers. The 2010 Vermonter Poll was conducted February 16-26 and includes responses to questions on a wide range of topics from 661 Vermont households. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent at a confidence interval of 95 percent. The Center for Rural Studies is a nonprofit, fee-for-service research organization that addresses the social, economic, and resource-based challenges faced by rural people and communities. Founded in the University of Vermont's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1978, CRS supports the research and teaching missions of the university through its work in applied research, program evaluation, consulting, and outreach. Currently CRS is involved in the ARRA-funded Vermont Broadband Mapping Initiative with the Vermont Center for Geographic Information, the Vermont Department of Public Service and other partners. The goal of this initiative is to map and verify the availability of high-speed Internet in Vermont.