Press release

COVID-19 Study Reveals High-Speed Broadband Disparity Across Social, Wealth and Rural Divides

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Communicating for America (CA), a rural and Main Street advocacy organization, has released a new consumer survey to better understand how COVID-19 has affected individual communication and gauge attitudes on health coverage in the midst of a pandemic.

The survey was conducted on CA’s behalf by YouGov, a nationally known polling firm, with 1,113 Americans ages 18-65 responding. Survey highlights:

  • 73% of those who do not have access to high-speed internet report having their lives meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity in the last 12 months.
  • When asked how they would best prefer receiving health insurance, 46% of 18-65 year olds said they would prefer the government provide a single health insurance plan with little or no cost.
  • Only 5% understood the basics of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), selecting “People on COBRA receive financial assistance to pay their monthly premium” as a true statement. Forty-two percent of respondents didn’t know what COBRA is. This at a time when Congress is considering paying premiums for unemployed Americans on COBRA.
  • 68% of Americans 18-65 believe that politics plays either “somewhat of a role” or “a significant role” in Supreme Court decisions.

When it comes to high-speed broadband service, the survey found overall 21% of 18-65 year old Americans do not have access or are not sure if they have access. Of those who do not have access to high-speed internet, 73% report having their lives meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity in the last 12 months (compared to 54% who do have high-speed internet).

Many respondents to the survey shared ways they have been meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity issues in the past 12 months. Twenty-eight percent said communication with others is a problem, whether they had high-speed internet or not. In addition, 26% said they have connectivity issues when it came to school/education. In addition, the respondents said that internet connectivity meaningfully impacted them in the following ways:

  • 25% work.
  • 18% medical care.
  • 16% when retail shopping.
  • 15% when grocery shopping.

The disparity was especially reflected by race, education and income levels. Whites and Blacks were equally likely to have been impacted by internet connectivity within the past 12 months (51% each), but 59% of Hispanics and 67% of other non-White identifying races reported meaningful connectivity impact in the last 12-months. The survey found that 69% of those with a high school education or lower had high-speed internet, compared to 90% of those with a four-year college degree. Similarly, 70% of those making under $40,000 a year had access to high-speed broadband compared to 91% making $80,000 or more in household income.

One survey respondent shared their frustration. “Our bandwidth has been severely shortened due to overuse of the service. It used to be that I knew if I just HAD to do something, I could log in during the week when people were at work/school. Now there is no time that I know I can count on the internet being relatively ‘faster.’ Plus, since we’re rural, we have no choice in the service we use. It’s excessively slow and expensive.”

Turning to health care, when asked how they would like to obtain their health insurance among three specific scenarios, each with a $600 monthly premium, 42% said they want to get health insurance through the federal government and receive help paying their monthly premium if their income falls below 2.5 times the poverty line, but with a responsibility to pay the full premium themselves if their income is above that line. Thirty-seven percent would like their health insurance through an employer, in a scenario wherein employers were responsible for 50% of their premiums but coverage would be lost if they were fired, while 21% believe you should have the freedom to purchase health insurance on your own, choosing among all available plans and not risking loss of coverage should they lose their jobs (but with a full responsibility for their monthly premium).

The employer-based coverage scenario was most popular with Americans who are younger (38%), highly educated (40% with 4-year and post-graduate degrees) and more affluent (45% making $40,000 or more, compared to 24% of those with household incomes under $40,000).

Although few Americans aged 18-65 understood how COBRA works, with 62% saying they don’t know what business sizes are applicable (it is only for those who worked for firms with 20 or more employees), a subsidy of insurance premiums will leave behind millions of rural Americans who are more likely to work for smaller firms whose unemployed workers would get no premium subsidy for keeping the insurance plan they have.

When asked about attitudes towards the Supreme Court’s current consideration of overturning the ACA, many thought there would be a change.

  • 23% of Americans age 18-65 believe the Supreme Court will let the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stand as it is today.
  • 44% believe the Supreme Court will eliminate part or all of the ACA.

“This survey highlights the disparity in America across many social and economic divides,” said Patty Strickland, Chief Operating Officer of CA. “In 2021, it’s disheartening that people are struggling to communicate, get access to education or find health care easily accessible. CA will continue to work on Capitol Hill to make sure the voice of all rural and Main Street Americans are heard.”

To receive a copy of the full survey, email pstrick@cainc.org.

Methodology

Communicating for America commissioned the research firm, YouGov, to conduct the study. The total sample size was 1,113 U.S. adults aged 18-65. Fieldwork was undertaken between February 5-8, 2021. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results. The survey has a margin error of two percentage points, plus or minus.

About Communicating for America

Communicating for America, Inc. (CA), once known as Communicating for Agriculture, is a nationwide nonpartisan organization that represents approximately 75,000 small businesses, self-employed and agricultural members across America. Since 1972 CA has been working on small business, tax, healthcare and agricultural policy issues on behalf of its members. For more information visit www.communicatingforamerica.org.