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Huge Number of Americans Do Not Care About or Want Internet

Douglas A. McIntyre

Imagine a world in which Americans do not have an Internet connection because they don't want one. That world seems improbable, but it exists nonetheless. The primary reason is that many people in the United States do not think the Internet is necessary or relevant to them. In a period when the government believes people have to be online to keep well-informed and connected to society, many people reject those things as inconsequential. The dream of a country in which the Internet is a sort of uniting force is dead, and it was never really alive.

According to new data on who is online from the Pew Internet & American Life project:

As of May 2013, 15% of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the internet or email.

Asked why they do not use the internet:

  • 34% of non-internet users think the internet is just not relevant to them, saying they are not interested, do not want to use it, or have no need for it.
  • 32% of non-internet users cite reasons tied to their sense that the internet is not very easy to use. These non-users say it is difficult or frustrating to go online, they are physically unable, or they are worried about other issues such as spam, spyware, and hackers. This figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys.
  • 19% of non-internet users cite the expense of owning a computer or paying for an internet connection.
  • 7% of non-users cited a physical lack of availability or access to the internet.

The federal government and experts in education have said on a number of occasions that poverty was a critical gating factor to Internet use. Due to this, perhaps the government should make the Internet available to everyone. One of the important by-products of being online, particularly for the poor, is that access to education and information is critical to lifting people out of poverty and intellectual isolation. But the cost of the Internet and PCs sits well down the list of the Pew study.

The argument about and analysis of the reasons for universal Internet access can be turned on their head, because so many Americans just do not care.