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A quarter of Alabamians live in homes without internet access, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In some parts of the state the percentage is even higher.

Rural Alabama, particularly the Black Belt and other southern counties, struggle with internet access. The majority of households in four rural counties – Perry, Monroe, Conecuh and Greene – don’t have any sort of internet access, according to data from the Census’ 2017 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

The 10 counties with the highest percentage of households without internet access are all in South Alabama. Six of those are in the Black Belt. Many of these counties also struggle with poverty and population loss.

But internet access is more than just a modern convenience. In 2016, the United Nations claimed access to the internet was a human right. Some have argued that internet access should be free for people who can’t afford it.

Around 82 percent of all households in the country have internet access, according the Census. Yet only three Alabama counties beat that mark, and they’re among the wealthiest and fastest growing in the state. Worldwide, it’s estimated that 44 percent of people don’t have access to the internet.

Shelby County, a popular suburb in the Birmingham Metro Area, has the lowest percentage of households without internet at just 11.7 percent. It’s followed by Madison – the home of tech hub Huntsville – and Lee, home of Auburn University.

In Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state, 22 percent of households don’t have any kind of internet access. In Mobile, the number is 26.5 percent. In Montgomery, it’s 20.7 percent.

Alabama counties without internet access

Rural Alabama – particularly in South Alabama, struggles with internet access. | Graphic by Ramsey Archibald

Alabama’s unconnected rate of 25 percent ranks sixth worst nationally behind a handful of other Southern states and New Mexico. Mississippi has the worst mark in the country. Thirty percent of households there don’t have any access to the World Wide Web. It’s followed in the top five by Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana and West Virginia.

New Mexico is the only state in the top 10 that’s not in the South, highlighting a digital divide that defines and holds backs parts of the South.

Utah leads the nation in terms of connectivity. Only 10.7 percent of households there don’t have internet access.

Households without internet access

Alabama is near the bottom of the list, joined by several other Southern states, in terms of internet access. | Graphic by Ramsey Archibald

Do you have an idea for a data story about Alabama? Email Ramsey Archibald at rarchibald@al.com, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyArchibald.



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