PHILADELPHIA—The City of Philadelphia is publicly releasing “Connecting Philadelphia: 2021 Household Internet Assessment Survey,” a new, up-to-date report that provides a clear picture of the state of digital access in Philadelphia today. The City partnered with Wilco Electronic Systems, Centri Tech Foundation, SSRS, and national broadband expert Dr. John Horrigan, PhD, to conduct the Philadelphia Household Internet Assessment Survey to identify current digital access needs in Philadelphia.
The report provides information on a quality benchmark for overall connectivity in Philadelphia to inform the City’s digital equity strategy and a reliable estimate of Philadelphia K-12 students who are still disconnected or without reliable internet access as of July 2021.
While highlighting barriers and challenges for getting residents connected, the report also shows how programs like PHLConnectED and other discount internet access programs have helped increase digital equity in Philadelphia.
“While we have more work to do, it’s clear to see that programs like PHLConnectED and the Emergency Broadband Benefit make an impact,” said Mayor Kenney. “We must all remain diligent in raising awareness about these programs while also pushing for additional resources to achieve lasting digital equity. Together, we can overcome the digital divide and ensure that everyone gets connected.”
Some numbers of note are:
- 84 percent of Philadelphia households have high-speed internet subscriptions at home (compared to the 70 percent reported in the 2019 American Community Survey).
- 91 percent of K-12 households have high-speed internet subscriptions at home.
- 75.9 percent of K-12 households nationwide have internet, so Philadelphia is ahead in connected K-12 households by 14.1 percent.
General takeaways from the report include:
- Broadband adoption in Philadelphia is higher than it was two years ago.
- Getting computers to students has been easier than maintaining consistent internet service.
- There is a lack of public awareness of available discount programs.
- Affordability and “subscription vulnerability” are key barriers.
- Groups whose broadband adoption are below average follow familiar patterns pertaining to race and ethnicity, income, and age.
- Programs like PHLConnectED and other discount internet access programs make a difference, especially for K-12 and low-income households.
The survey team found that “subscription vulnerability” is a common concern for Philadelphians. Broadband consumers might be subscription vulnerable if they have experienced service interruption during the pandemic, would have difficulty keeping their internet service without a discount, or are low-income. One-third of Philadelphians are estimated to be subscription vulnerable.
For the City, subscription vulnerability is a call to action for city, state, and federal governments. To ensure that households do not lose access to the internet, there must be continued support for broadband discount programs like PHLConnectED and other programs that address affordability. As the City looks toward the future, it plans to focus on the following:
- Taking advantage of upcoming opportunities through federal or state funds;
- Innovative grants through the Digital Literacy Alliance that support digital access;
- Focusing on the sustainability of PHLConnectED;
- Opening reimagined public computer centers; and
- Developing and sharing the city-wide digital equity plan and strategy for Philadelphia.
This survey and report were made possible by the generous support of Independence Public Media Foundation, Knight Foundation, Comcast, Lenfest Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation, Philadelphia School Partnership, and William Penn Foundation.