Many lack access to high-speed internet

Shasta High School math teacher Landon Woollard helps junior Ryder Lamp sign in for his computer studies on March 17.

As federal officials debate pouring billions of dollars into broadband access, data suggests many of California’s schoolchildren and adults who preferred to work from home spent the pandemic with sub-par access to high-speed internet, particularly in the state’s least-wealthy counties.

Advocates say that “digital divide” across the United States is due largely to two factors: a lack of internet infrastructure in the country’s rural reaches and the relatively high cost of broadband that has made the service unaffordable for many in urban centers.

In about half of California’s counties — 30 of 58 — measured by a Federal Communications Commission study, broadband access is available to at least 94% of residents. Yet in about half of the state measured by Microsoft — 30 of 58 counties — no more than 46% of households actually have high-speed access, a USA TODAY analysis shows.