A Digital Divide Between U.S. and Foreign-Born Latinos, Too

Cost and service remain the key factors in who gets online and how.

By Jamilah King Jul 28, 2010

More on the [digital divide](/archives/2010/07/mobile_tech_users_grow_broadband_still_on_the_table.html). This time, two new reports from the Pew Hispanic Center have found that U.S.-born Latinos use technology an awful lot more than their foreign-born counterparts. First, there’s the somewhat already predictable gap between youth and their foreign-born parents. But there’s also one between peers which, [reports the Washington Post](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/27/AR2010072705426.html?wpisrc=nl_headline): The reports, "[How Young Latinos Communicate with Friends in the Digital Age](http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?PreviewID=12)" and "[The Latino Digital Divide: The Native Born versus The Foreign Born](http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?PreviewID=123)," found that 85 percent of native-born Latinos older than 16 use the Internet while 51 percent of foreign-born Latinos do; that 80 percent of native-born Latinos between 16 and 25 use cellphones compared with 72 percent of their foreign-born peers; and that 78 percent of native-born Latinos 16 to 25 who have Internet access use social networking sites such as Facebook, compared with 62 percent of their foreign-born peers. While the Post skims over the issue of costly home-based broadband services, focusing instead on foreign-born users’ smaller social networks, the issue of affordability is one of the touchiest in the slowly simmering net neutrality debate. Newly-arrived immigrants are by-and-large [poorer](http://pewhispanic.org/files/factsheets/foreignborn2008/Table%2035.pdf) than their U.S.-born counterparts, and last spring the [Social Science Research Council found](http://www.ssrc.org/publications/view/1EB76F62-C720-DF11-9D32-001CC477EC70/) that high costs pose an obvious challenge to poor families getting online. The FCC reported this year the average monthly cost of broadband was over $40, and could reach as much as $500 annually when set up and maintenance fees are added. Here’s one compelling example of how this plays out: Residents of Philadelphia’s Housing Authority reported that the Internet provider Comcast refused to offer services to its 81,000 residents, but in order to sign up with competitor Verizon, the mostly black and brown tenants also signed up for the company’s costly phone services. Poor quality of service and hidden fees are keeping many working families of color in urban and rural areas alike offline.