The current global situation has made the need for broadband access for everyone even more clear. In many countries, internet access should now be considered a utility, as important as water and electricity. And fast internet access is necessary for everything from watching videos to downloading large files, for education, work from home, and entertainment purposes.
A new survey from Microsoft and the council of youth development organization 4-H shows that teenagers are keenly aware of how important broadband access is to their future prospects. It found that lack of high-speed internet access could have negative impacts on teens’ confidence and faith in their future success, in terms of both education and employment.
There are 21 million people in the U.S. who lack broadband access, of whom 17 million live in rural communities which are often poorly served by internet service providers. According to the survey of 1,500 young people aged between 13 and 19, 20% of teens living in rural areas do not have access to broadband internet. And this has a direct impact on their lives, as almost half said they have struggled to complete homework assignments because of a poor internet connection.
The lack of internet access impedes young people’s view of their future as well. The survey found that teens who lacked internet access were less confident about their ability to graduate high school and about their future job prospects, and they were also less optimistic about their social mobility and ability to achieve financial success compared to their peers who did have fast internet access.
“Broadband has become the electricity of the 21st century and is transforming every part of the American economy,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said. “Although most of us take broadband for granted, many in rural areas don’t have access to a high-speed connection. As a company, we’re focused on bridging that gap through our Airband initiative and working with partners like 4-H to ensure everyone has the access and skills they need to prosper in the digital economy.”
Microsoft has made the issue of internet access a priority in the past as well, having called on the U.S. government to issue more accurate maps and data on broadband access last year.