Just three years later, the need for a home internet connection and digital skills continues to grow. In fact, 92% of all U.S. jobs now require digital know-how, according to a National Skills Coalition (NSC) report.
Tie this demand into the two facts cited in a Datareportal report that about 8% of the country still doesn’t have internet access and about a third does not have digital skills, exposing another layer of the digital divide.
What is the digital divide?
The gap between who can access and use the internet in the U.S. and those who cannot due to a lack of availability, affordability or skill levels.
The need for home internet plans isn’t going away, as 2020’s pandemic lockdown showed us just how much of our work can be done outside of a traditional office setting. According to a Forbes report, “As of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% work a hybrid model.”
This growing list of remote positions allows people to live and work from almost anywhere that has an internet connection, rather than based on proximity to an office.
According to the Pew Research Center, “about a third (35%) of workers with jobs that can be done remotely are working from home all of the time. This is down from 43% in January 2022 and 55% in October 2020 – but up from only 7% before the pandemic.”
Keep in mind, whether you work from home full time or in a hybrid situation, online security should be taken seriously in the form of virtual private networks or multi-factor authentications.
Digital skills and home internet for the workforce
Whether you are juggling multiple spreadsheets at the office or entering in a customer’s contact information at your small bakery, a basic knowledge of technology is now required for most positions.
The NSC defines digital skills as “foundational skills such as email, simple spreadsheets, data entry, or timecard software. Others are industry-specific skills, such as bookkeepers using QuickBooks, manufacturing workers using AutoCAD, or home health aides using electronic medical records.”
Digital skills and internet access isn’t just needed in tech-heavy careers like information technology or computer science. Laptops, digital readers, tablets and more are being used in manufacturing to monitor quality assurance and production. The medical field is digitizing forms, creating online patient portals and more.
Liberty Mutual Insurance reported that technology is rapidly enhancing the construction industry, “By adopting tech methods to help reduce on-site work time, such as using virtual construction tools like Building Information Modeling and automating inventories and ordering, a contractor can better manage productivity levels and its workforce.”
How do I get free computer skills?
With 92% of jobs needing some sort of digital skill, how do you get those skills if you don’t have internet or a computer at home?
There are several resources to check out, especially if you are in an area without much internet connectivity:
- Local libraries are the best places to start. They often have free-to-use computers and some provide tutorials or free classes to learn the basics. If they don’t offer classes, a librarian can set up you with easy-to-understand video tutorials.
- Community colleges or workforce development centers like Goodwill often have free seminars or classes on basic computer skills.
- Friends and family are great resources. Ask someone near you to walk you through how to set up a computer and an email account and perform basic search functions.
Finding the right home internet plan
For most home-use needs, a 100 Mbps plan is enough. If you have a larger household with two or three people using tablets or laptops, a 300 Mbps plan can suffice. Once you get into using smart home devices, working or learning from home and gaming, 500 Mbps+ plans are required.
If you live near a cell tower, consider researching fixed wireless options like T-Mobile or Verizon 5G home internet. If you have a strong signal, you can get up to 300 Mbps of speed with that connection. AT&T recently launched their 5G home internet service Internet Air and Starry is also growing in popularity and availability. Home internet plans generally range from $25 to $65/mo.
Free internet options
The Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to provide internet connections for free to qualified residents. Participating providers offer plans of at least 100 Mbps for under $30 and customers who qualify will get the ACP stipend of $30/mo., which makes your internet service free.
There are also several other programs for free or low-cost internet service available.
Written by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
Robin Layton is an editor with Allconnect. She works closely with the content team writers to ensure consumers get a fair and balanced reporting of the state of broadband services to help them understand the pro… Read more
Edited by:Camryn Smith
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