A new Census Bureau report reveals 78 percent of households in the U.S. had high-speed Internet access last year.

The statistics were collected for the first time in 2013 as part of the bureau's American Community Survey. Despite the positive figure, the numbers are a bit misleading, given there is significant variation around the country.

"Many states had metros with consistently high or low computer and high-speed Internet use, but other states were notable for having a mix of both high and low areas within their borders, often very near one another," said Thom File, a sociologist for the Census Bureau. "One clear example of this is seen in Washington. State-level results show high percentages of both computer and high-speed Internet use, but when we look at the state's individual metro areas, a more nuanced picture emerges."

The differences in high-speed Internet use are as much as 25 percent between certain age and race groups, with divides between some income and education level groups spanning a range up to 45 percent.

New Hampshire has the highest rate of high-speed access, boasting a rate of 86 percent of households. Mississippi has a rate of 62 percent. Among metropolitan areas, Boulder, Colo., has one of the higher rates of 88 percent, with Laredo, Texas having one of the lowest rates with 52 percent.

While 75 percent of households in metropolitan areas reported having high-speed Internet use, only 63 percent of nonmetropolitan areas did. Even some areas that were very close to each other had rather large divides. While areas in the San Francisco Bay area, such as San Jose and Napa, had high-speed Internet-use rates approaching 90 percent, areas such as Bakersfield and Fresno, relatively nearby, had rates closer to 70 percent.

Income, of course, plays a large role in whether a household has high-speed Internet or not. Some 95 percent of households with an annual income of $150,000 or more had an Internet subscription. Only 48 percent of households making less than $25,000 had Internet subscriptions.

"These new statistics show how the American Community Survey gives communities the information they need on both computer and Internet access for their residents," said John H. Thompson, Census Bureau director. The survey gives small-area estimates for social and demographic characteristics so communities have the up-to-date information they need to plan investments and services. Questions (PDF) about computer and Internet use were added in 2013 as part of the requirements of the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008.

"As the Census Bureau continues to move more surveys online to reduce respondent burden, these statistics inform us of areas that have high and low Internet use. These statistics also provide the information communities and federal agencies need to make decisions to improve and expand broadband Internet access for all Americans."

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