Ironically, just as broadband stimulus projects begin to roll out, a new report from the Pew Research Center shows that only 41% of Americans believe the spread of broadband should be a top or important government priority. A quarter of respondents said the government should not attempt to improve broadband availability and 27% said it was “not too important” a priority.

People under age 30, African Americans and those who use the Internet were more likely than older people, Caucasians and non-users to see government involvement in broadband as a high priority.

The biggest disadvantages to not having broadband are career-related, the survey found. Forty-three respondents said a lack of broadband was a “major disadvantage” and 23% said it was a “minor disadvantage” when it comes to finding out about job opportunities or gaining new career skills. The second most important disadvantage, according to the survey, was the inability to obtain health information, with 34% of respondents citing a lack of broadband as a “major disadvantage” and 28% saying it was a “minor disadvantage.”

The survey found that 21% of Americans do not use the Internet and also looked at reasons why. One of the biggest reason non-users said they do not use the Internet, cited by 48% of non-users, was a lack of relevance. That’s a considerably higher number than the 19% of respondents in a study conducted earlier this year by the FCC who said they did not use the Internet because of a lack of relevance. The difference in the findings likely relates to the fact that the FCC study apparently focused on the single most important reason people did not use the Internet, while the Pew study allowed non-users to cite more than one reason.

Probably for the same reason, the surveys had a similar discrepancy regarding the percentage of non-users who expressed concerns about computer literacy. Sixty percent of non-users in the Pew study said they would “need help getting on line,” while 12% of respondents in the FCC study said they lacked digital skills.

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