Worst Connected Cities 2017NDIA has released our fourth annual “Worst Connected Cities” ranking, based on U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) data for 2017.

The new report covers 191 U.S. cities and “Census places” with 50,000 or more households. We’ve ranked these communities by the percentages of their households with no home Internet connections of any kind in 2017, according to the 2017 ACS 1-Year Estimates.

Each year starting in 2015, NDIA has used previous-year data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey (ACS) to compare the rates of household Internet connection in large U.S. cities, and to highlight the cities with the lowest connection rates. These annual comparisons are published as NDIA’s “Worst Connected Cities” list.

The data we use for “Worst Connected Cities” comes from the ACS’s annual 1-Year Estimate, Table B28002 (“Presence and types of Internet subscriptions in households”). The 1-Year Estimate only provides detailed residential computer and Internet access information on a community-wide basis, and only for  fairly large communities, i.e. Census “places” with 65,000 or more residents.

NDIA’s “Worst Connected Cities” comparisons include all U.S. cities and Census-recognized “places” with at 50,000 or more households. This included 184 communities in 2014, 185 in 2015, 186 in 2016 and 191 in the 2017 ACS released last month.

What are we comparing in NDIA’s annual Worst Connected lists?

In 2015, Worst Connected Cities compared percentage of households in each city that had “No Internet access” of any kind in 2014 — i.e. the very last line of Table B28002.

For 2016 and 2017, we narrowed our focus to households lacking “fixed broadband subscriptions” — i.e. wireline Internet (DSL, cable modem, home fiber), satellite Internet, or “other service” which could include fixed 4G wireless.  We focused on fixed services because the strict data caps common to mobile Internet services make them much less useful for general household Internet use.

However, as the ACS numbers show,  many households continue to access the Internet only by means of mobile wireless devices.  The ACS also shows a growing number of households who report having “Internet access without a subscription”.  So for 2017, we’ve returned to a Worst Connected Cities ranking based on the “bottom line” of ACS Table B28002 — the percentage of households with “No Internet access” of any kind.