Columbus had the highest adoption rate for broadband Internet service among eight metropolitan
areas in Ohio last year, a big plus for the area’s future, according to a recent study.
“Columbus is up there,” said Joseph Kane, a researcher at Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program,
which produced the study. Central Ohio is “on par with Atlanta and Des Moines. It’s actually ahead
of Los Angeles and New York.”
High-speed Internet access was in 79.6 percent of Columbus households in 2014, a 2.5
percentage-point increase from 2013, the study said.
That’s important because broadband Internet has evolved into a dominating system, Kane said.
“Much like electricity was in the 20th century, broadband is becoming the infrastructure of the
21st century,” Kane said. “So when people lack connection or lack the skills to use it, they are at
a distinct disadvantage.”
The transition to Internet-based tools “is widespread across health care, agriculture, business,
government, community and economic development,” said Lindsay Shanahan, executive director of
Connect Ohio, a nonprofit group that promotes broadband access in the state.
“More and more, activities and services that were previously completed using paper and pencil
are being moved online,” Shanahan said. “For example, online learning is continually becoming a
larger component of education, including electronic textbooks, online videos to supplement
lectures, and online tests and assignments.”
The report, “Broadband Adoption Rates and Gaps in U.S. Metropolitan Areas,” is the Brookings
program’s first economic analysis of broadband-Internet adoption, covering 238 U.S. metropolitan
areas. It shows which metro areas have the highest and lowest adoption rates and possible causes of
The Ohio metro area with the lowest adoption rate was Youngstown, where 68.9 percent of
residents were connected to broadband Internet in 2014. While low, Youngstown’s percentage was a
5.3-point increase from 2013, the study said.
That’s typical, Kane said. Although about a quarter of American households do not have a
broadband subscription, “we are seeing the share of households going up everywhere,” he said. “
Nationally, more than three-quarters of households had broadband. But there’s enormous variation
across the country.”
Three factors had a significant effect on broadband adoption, the study said: higher income,
educational attainment and telecommuting.
Although income and education are two of the most-significant variables across the country, the
third factor “had the most positive and significant effect on the adoption rate” in some areas,
“We see this in Columbus,” he said. “About 4.5 percent of all commuters (in Columbus) are
telecommuting now, which is fairly high.”
Columbus did well in the other categories, too.
Looking at income, 56 percent of Columbus households earn more than $50,000, “which is fairly
notable,” Kane said.
Also, 91 percent of individuals have at least a high-school diploma, which is also fairly
The report mirrors a similar study done this fall by nonprofit group Connected Nation, the
parent of Connect Ohio, Shanahan said.
As Connect Ohio promotes broadband access in the state, “we see two things regularly,” Shanahan
said. “For some, the barrier is a lack of broadband access; for others, access exists, but there
are barriers to broadband adoption, including cost and lack of digital skills.
“For true digital inclusion, both factors — access and adoption — must be addressed.”