Charlotte’s digital divide


Charlotte's Broadband DesertsAccess to online and digital resources is critical in Charlotte and nearly everywhere else. Eighty percent of job opportunities are posted exclusively online. For people completing their high school equivalency requirements, the General Educational Development (GED) examination is now only offered online. And in the school system, seven in 10 teachers assign homework requiring access to the internet.

“Broadband deserts” cover large swaths of Charlotte. In this map, gray areas have 21-40 percent access to downstream speeds of 3 mbps or greater. Orange have access at 41 to 60 percent, blue at 61 to 80 percent, and red or “clear” areas at 81 to 100 percent. The federal government defines broadband at 25 mbps or greater, downstream. The “wedge and crescent” pattern is consistent with other indicators of economic inequality, including income and educational development.

More than 14 percent of households in Mecklenburg County – almost 56,000 households – have no internet access at all. About 7 percent – or 26,000 households – in the county have only mobile internet or dial-up service. This means that in 2015, 21 percent of Mecklenburg County households had – at best – dial-up speeds for home internet.