The COVID-19 pandemic induced a historic shift to remote work and schooling. During the first coronavirus surge last spring, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 35% of workers teleworked because of the pandemic. While that figure has declined, about 17% of workers reported teleworking due to the pandemic just last month. In addition, a Census Bureau report shows that an astonishing 93% of households with school-age children engaged in some form of distance learning during the pandemic—a change that puts those lacking internet access at a severe disadvantage. According to the latest Census Bureau data, 11% of American households do not have access to the internet, and 29% don’t have broadband.
Internet access has achieved near-widespread adoption over the past two decades. In 1997, just 18% of households had an internet subscription, but twenty years later, that figure had climbed to 78%. As residents increasingly rely on the internet for a broad range of services, broadband has also become the norm. According to Census Bureau data, in 2019, 71% of households had broadband, while just 0.2% had dial-up. That said, a cell phone and accompanying data plan is the only way that roughly one in 10 American households access the web.